Kathy Boudin

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Kathy Boudin
Kathy Boudin FBI wanted poster issued 1 May 1970.jpg
Kathy Boudin FBI wanted poster issued May 1, 1970 with first name misspelled
Born(1943-05-19)May 19, 1943
New York City, U.S.
DiedMay 1, 2022(2022-05-01) (aged 78)
New York City, U.S.
EducationBryn Mawr College (BA)
Columbia University (EdD)
Criminal statusDeceased
SpouseDavid Gilbert
ChildrenChesa Boudin
Conviction(s)Second degree murder
Criminal penalty20 years to life in prison; paroled after 23 years

Kathy Boudin (May 19, 1943 – May 1, 2022)[1] was an American radical leftist who served 23 years in prison for felony murder based on her role in the 1981 Brink's robbery. The robbery resulted in the killing of two Nyack, New York, police officers and one security guard, and serious injury to another security guard.[2] Boudin was a founding member of the militant Weather Underground organization, which engaged in bombings of government buildings to express opposition to U.S. foreign policy and racism. She was released on parole in 2003 and after earning a doctorate became an adjunct professor at Columbia University.[3]

Early life and family[edit]

Kathy Boudin was born in Manhattan on May 19, 1943, into a Jewish family with a storied left-wing history.[1] She was raised in Greenwich Village, New York City. Her paternal grandparents had emigrated from Russia and Austria.[4] Her great-uncle was Marxist theorist Louis B. Boudin, while her brother is conservative U.S. Judge Michael Boudin. Her mother was poet Jean (Roisman) Boudin, whose sister Esther was married to radical journalist I.F. Stone (making him Kathy's uncle).[5] Her father, attorney Leonard Boudin, had represented controversial clients such as Judith Coplon,[4] the Cuban government,[6] and Paul Robeson.[7] A National Lawyers Guild attorney, Leonard Boudin was the law partner of Victor Rabinowitz, himself counsel to numerous left-wing organizations.[8] Kathy Boudin graduated from Bryn Mawr College in 1965 as class valedictorian.[9][10] After college, she attended Case Western law school for one year.

Boudin met her romantic partner, David Gilbert, in the 1970s and gave birth to their son Chesa Boudin in 1980.[11] When her son was 14 months old, she was arrested and subsequently convicted and incarcerated for felony murder based on her role as a decoy in the 1981 Brink's robbery.[12] Her son was raised by former Weatherman leaders Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn.[12][13][14][15]

Weather Underground[edit]

In 1969, Boudin was a founding member of the Weatherman faction of Students for a Democratic Society, which in 1970 became the Weather Underground Organization (WUO). In 1970 she and Cathy Wilkerson were the only survivors of the Greenwich Village townhouse explosion, when a bomb that their comrades were constructing in the basement, intending to use it to attack U.S. Army personnel that evening, exploded prematurely, killing three of the militants and demolishing the building they were using as a hideout and bomb factory.[16] The WUO soon after renounced actions that sought to inflict human casualties.[17] Boudin remained a fugitive for more than a decade, engaging in multiple additional bombings (none of which resulted in injuries) and other actions.

In 1981, Boudin and several former members of the Weather Underground, with current members of the May 19th Communist Organization and the Black Liberation Army, robbed a Brink's armored car at the Nanuet Mall, in Nanuet, New York.[18] Boudin was in the front seat of a U-Haul truck used as a switchcar getaway vehicle and also acted as a decoy. Responding police testified that when they spotted and pulled over the getaway vehicle, Boudin feigned innocence and encouraged the two responding officers put their guns down. Her accomplices leaped from the back of the truck and shot officers Edward O'Grady and Waverly Brown, killing them. In addition to the deaths of O'Grady and Brown, the robbers severely wounded guard Joseph Trombino; killed his partner, Peter Paige; and injured two other police officers.[19]

Guilty plea and incarceration[edit]

Boudin was arrested while attempting to flee the scene on foot. She eventually pleaded guilty to felony murder and robbery for an agreed sentence of 20 years to life in prison.[20] While incarcerated, Boudin published articles in the Harvard Educational Review ("Participatory Literacy Education Behind Bars: AIDS Opens the Door," Summer 1993, 63 (2)),[21] in Breaking the Rules: Women in Prison and Feminist Therapy by Judy Harden and Marcia Hill ("Lessons from a Mother's Program in Prison: A Psychosocial Approach Supports Women and Their Children," published simultaneously in Women & Therapy, 21),[22] and in Breaking the Walls of Silence: AIDS and Women in a New York State Maximum-Security Prison. She co-authored The Foster Care Handbook for Incarcerated Parents published by Bedford Hills in 1993. She also co-edited Parenting from inside/out: Voices of mothers in prison, jointly published by correctional institutions and the Osborne Association.[23] Boudin also co-founded AIDS Committee for Education (ACE) inside the prison in 1988 with other incarcerated women including Katrina Haslip and Judith Alice Clark to provide accurate education on living with HIV.[24][25]

Boudin also wrote and published poetry while incarcerated, publishing in books and journals including the PEN Center Prize Anthology Doing Time, Concrete Garden, and Aliens at the Border.[26] She won an International PEN prize for her poetry in 1999.[27]

Boudin and Roslyn D. Smith contributed the piece "Alive Behind the Labels: Women in Prison" to the 2003 anthology Sisterhood Is Forever: The Women's Anthology for a New Millennium, edited by Robin Morgan.[28]

After almost 23 years' imprisonment, Boudin was granted parole on August 20, 2003, in her third parole hearing. She was released from the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility on September 18, 2003.[29]

Life after prison[edit]

After her release from prison, Boudin accepted a job in the HIV/AIDS Clinic at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center, meeting the work provisions of parole that required active job prospects.[30]

In May 2004 Boudin published an essay in the Fellowship of Reconciliation's publication Fellowship, expressing remorse for her participation in the Brink's robbery, which she described as "horrific."[31] Subsequently, she received an Ed. D. from Columbia University Teachers College. In addition to her work at St. Luke's-Roosevelt, Boudin worked as a consultant to Osborne Association in the development of a Longtermers Responsibility Project taking place in the New York State Correctional Facilities, utilizing a restorative practice approach, and co-authored the Coming to Terms curriculum used in the program. She also consulted for Vermont Corrections and the Women's Prison Association and supervised social workers.[32]

Columbia University[edit]

Boudin was named an adjunct professor at the Columbia University School of Social Work, where she was the co-director and co-founder of the Center for Justice at Columbia University.[32] Her appointment was controversial due to her guilty plea to a felony murder charge and her past participation in a group which carried out terrorist attacks in the United States.[33][34] However, an opinion piece in the Columbia Daily Spectator noted that she took responsibility for her crimes and successfully rehabilitated herself.[35] Columbia School of Social Work Associate Dean Marianne Yoshioka, who hired Boudin for the adjunct-professor post in 2008, was quoted as saying that Boudin has been "an excellent teacher who gets incredible evaluations from her students each year."[33] In 2013, she was Sheinberg Scholar-in-Residence at New York University School of Law. The law school has maintained a video of her lecture.[36]

In popular culture[edit]

Boudin was a model for the title role in David Mamet's play The Anarchist (2012).[37] She also was a model for Willy Holtzman's Off-Broadway play Something You Did (2008).[38] Boudin was an inspiration for the character Merry in Philip Roth's American Pastoral.[39]


On May 1, 2022, Boudin died in New York City at the age of 78, a day after returning from a visit to San Francisco.[1][40] According to her son Chesa Boudin, who was serving as District Attorney of San Francisco, Boudin had been battling cancer for seven years.[40]


  1. ^ a b c Haberman, Clyde (May 2, 2022). "Kathy Boudin, Radical Imprisoned in a Fatal Robbery, Dies at 78". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved May 2, 2022.
  2. ^ Quieter Lives for 60's Militants, but Intensity of Beliefs Hasn't Faded
  3. ^ "Kathy Boudin: A Great Life and A Great Loss | Center for Justice". centerforjustice.columbia.edu. Retrieved May 3, 2022.
  4. ^ a b "A Background Paper on Leonard Boudin Prepared for White House by Hunt". The New York Times. July 19, 1974. p. 10. Retrieved August 3, 2020.
  5. ^ "Jewish Currents". 2007.
  6. ^ Leonard Boudin, Civil Liberties Lawyer, Dies at 77
  7. ^ Powers, Thomas (November 2, 2003). "Underground Woman". The New York Times. Retrieved July 21, 2008. Kathy Boudin was a child of privilege, but it was the glare of public attention — not money or status — that set her apart from the ordinary run of children of middle-class professionals. It began with her father's fame as a lawyer and his many celebrated, in some cases notorious, clients, including Paul Robeson, Rockwell Kent, Joan Baez and Fidel Castro.
  8. ^ Victor Rabinowitz, 96, Leftist Lawyer, Dies
  9. ^ "Bryn Mawr Alumni Bulletin". Archived from the original on March 3, 2016. Retrieved November 16, 2007.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  10. ^ Johnson, Angela (April 29, 1987). "True, False, or Hearsay?". The College News. Retrieved February 18, 2020.
  11. ^ Gilbert, David (2012). Love and Struggle. Oakland: PM Press. p. 198. ISBN 978-1-60486-319-2.
  12. ^ a b Heyman, J.D. (December 23, 2002). "Free Thinker". People Magazine. Retrieved November 3, 2019.
  13. ^ "Chesa Boudin, son of imprisoned radicals, looks to become SF district attorney". January 15, 2019.
  14. ^ Boudin, Chesa (2005). "Chapter 1: Letters to Our Parents". In Berger, Dan; Boudin, Chesa; Farrow, Kenyon (eds.). Letters from Young Activists. Today's Rebels Speak Out. Nation Books. pp. 3–8. ISBN 978-1-56025-747-9.
  15. ^ Boudin, Chesa (2009). Gringo. New York: Scribner. p. 8. ISBN 978-1-4165-5912-2.
  16. ^ Dwyer, Jim (November 14, 2007). "An Infamous Explosion, and the Smoldering Memory of Radicalism". The New York Times. Retrieved May 3, 2022.
  17. ^ The Weather Underground (film) (statement of Bill Ayers)
  18. ^ Rosenau, William (2020). Tonight We Bombed the U.S. Capitol: The Explosive Story of M19, America's First Female Terrorist Group. New York: Simon and Schuster. p. 107. ISBN 978-1-5011-7012-6.
  19. ^ Rosenau, William (2020). Tonight We Bombed the U.S. Capitol: The Explosive Story of M19, America's First Female Terrorist Group. New York: Simon and Schuster. p. 108-109. ISBN 978-1-5011-7012-6.
  20. ^ Feron, James (May 4, 1984). "Kathy Boudin Given 20 Years to Life in Prison". The New York Times. Retrieved May 2, 2022.
  21. ^ "Resources on Prisons". Archived from the original on November 20, 2008. Retrieved November 3, 2007.
  22. ^ Boudin, Kathy (1998). "Lessons from a mother's program in prison: a psychosocial approach supports women and their children". Women & Therapy. 21 (1): 103–125. doi:10.1300/J015v21n01_01. Pdf. Archived June 26, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  23. ^ Microsoft Word – Sp 05 Psy 312 Syllabus 011705.doc[permanent dead link]
  24. ^ Day, Emma (April 27, 2022). "The Fire Inside: Women Protesting AIDS in Prison since 1980". Modern American History. 5: 79–100. doi:10.1017/mah.2022.3. S2CID 248396244.
  25. ^ Clark, Judy; Boudin, Kathy (1990). "Community of Women Organize Themselves to Cope with the AIDS Crisis: A Case Study from Bedford Hills Correctional Facility". Social Justice. 17 (2): 90–109. JSTOR 29766543. Retrieved May 5, 2022.
  26. ^ Wall tappings :an international anthology of women's prison writings, edited by Judith A. Scheffler (at Google books)
  27. ^ PEN American Center – 1998–1999 Archived June 8, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
  28. ^ "Library Resource Finder: Table of Contents for: Sisterhood is forever : the women's anth". Vufind.carli.illinois.edu. Retrieved October 15, 2015.
  29. ^ Foderaro, Lisa W. (September 18, 2003). "With Bouquet And a Wave, Boudin Is Free 22 Years Later". The New York Times.
  30. ^ Foderaro, Lisa W. (September 17, 2003). "Boudin Freed From Prison After Serving 22 Years". The New York Times. Retrieved August 4, 2012. Kathy Boudin, the former 1960's radical and fugitive, walked out of prison into the brilliant September sunshine today, 22 years after her involvement in an armored-car robbery that left three dead. Appearing relaxed but unsmiling, Ms. Boudin turned around in the parking lot at 8:45 a.m. and spent a few minutes waving a slow farewell to her friends among the inmate population, who were watching her departure from inside the prison.
  31. ^ Boudin, Kathy. "Making a Different Way of Life". Archived from the original on July 9, 2008. Retrieved October 12, 2008.
  32. ^ a b "Kathy Boudin". Columbia University School of Social Work. Columbia University. Retrieved June 3, 2021.
  33. ^ a b Celona, Larry; Dan Mangan (April 2, 2013). "Outrage 101: Radical Jailed in Slay Now Columbia Prof". New York Post. Retrieved April 14, 2013. Former Weather Underground radical Kathy Boudin — who spent 22 years in prison for an armored-car robbery that killed two cops and a Brinks guard — now holds a prestigious adjunct professorship at Columbia University's School of Social Work, The Post has learned.
  34. ^ Knight, Robert (April 11, 2013). "Hometown Outrage at Boudin Hiring". Rockland County Times. Retrieved April 14, 2013. Shocked at last week's Rockland County Times revelation that Columbia University has hired convicted, jailed and released Weather Underground terrorist Kathy Boudin as an adjunct professor, a furious Orangetown Town Board Tuesday unanimously approved a resolution of condemnation, and has demanded the university terminate Boudin immediately and send letters of apology to the families of the three officers killed during the infamous 1981 Brinks armored truck robbery in Nanuet and Nyack.
  35. ^ Hawthorne, Julien. "A strange redemption". Columbia Daily Spectator. Spectator Publishing Company, Inc. Retrieved October 27, 2019.
  36. ^ 19th Annual Rose Sheinberg Lecture on YouTube
  37. ^ Lahr, John (December 10, 2012). "Rough Justice". The New Yorker. Condé Nast. Retrieved July 18, 2016.
  38. ^ Dziemianowicz, Joseph (April 2, 2008). "A prisoner undergoes a radical transformation". Daily News. New York. p. 37 – via Newspapers.com.
  39. ^ Posnock, Ross (November 2, 2018). "Homegrown American Terrorists: Merry Levov (of Roth's American Pastoral) & Kathy Boudin". In Finazzi-Agrò, Ettore (ed.). Toward a Linguistic and Literary Revision of Cultural Paradigms: Common and/or Alien. Cambridge Scholars Publishing. p. 5. ISBN 978-1-5275-2089-9.
  40. ^ a b "Kathy Boudin, formerly imprisoned radical leftist and mother of San Francisco D.A. Chesa Boudin, dies". Sfchronicle.com. May 1, 2022. Retrieved May 1, 2022.

Further reading[edit]