The Radical Odyssey of Terrorist Kathy Boudin Ends with a Bang, Then a Whimper
updated 11/09/1981 AT 01:00 AM EST
•originally published 11/09/1981 AT 01:00 AM EST
According to Jean Boudin, Kathy's mother, her daughter came home unexpectedly on that icy-cold March day in 1970 after the explosion that killed three of her friends. Mrs. Boudin didn't know what had happened or that Kathy had been involved; Kathy apparently volunteered nothing. "Sleep well," Jean Boudin later remembered calling to her daughter. "Will I see you in the morning?" "Not sure," replied Kathy evasively. She was gone before her parents awoke the next day.
Although the Boudins—Jean, a poet, and Leonard, a well-known left-wing lawyer—say they did not talk with their daughter again until her recent arrest on murder and robbery charges, they did see the obscure 1976 film in which Kathy read the poem at right. Filmmaker Emile de Antonio, who shot the documentary during three days with the Weather Underground in L.A., suspected that all was not well with the fugitives. "It was clear," he says, "they had agreed in advance to present a coherent, rational line. But I sensed this was really a chaotic group on the verge of disbanding."
In fact, Boudin's fellow radical Cathy Wilkerson, another survivor of the Greenwich Village explosion, surrendered to authorities in 1980, followed by Weatherpeople Bernardine Dohrn and Bill Ayers. All three had reportedly clashed with Boudin about the future direction of the movement. Eventually Kathy joined the May 19 Coalition—named for the birthdate she shares with Malcolm X and Ho Chi Minh. The group evidently links feminism and black liberation, and considers violence a desirable tactic.
From earliest childhood, Boudin was exposed to radical politics. Her father once defended the Rev. Philip Berrigan and other activists, and house-guests included liberal celebrities such as I.F. Stone, Noam Chomsky, Pete Seeger and Dr. Benjamin Spock. Athletically and academically gifted, Kathy majored in Russian literature at Bryn Mawr, graduating in absentia with high honors in 1965, while studying in the Soviet Union. The turning point in her life, she told de Antonio, came the following year, when she saw a young minister killed by a bulldozer during a civil rights demonstration in Cleveland. Rejecting conventional activism, she joined the Weathermen, later traveling to Cuba to meet with Vietcong representatives and co-authoring The Bust BOOK, a guide for young radicals on what to do when arrested.
While her movements as a fugitive remain largely a mystery, Boudin, with her year-old son, Chesa (probably named for Black Liberation Army leader Joanne Chesimard), has lived in Manhattan for the past year and a half. Although she was on welfare, Boudin shared a five-room Morningside Drive flat with newspaper reporter Rita Jensen (who says she knew Kathy only as Lynn Adams). A militant feminist, Boudin preferred not to live with the boy's father, believed to be David Gilbert, 37, a co-defendant in the Nanuet robbery that resulted in the murder of a Brink's guard and two policemen. Two weeks ago, Jensen remembers, Boudin went to a flea market to buy a snowsuit for Chesa. Three days later she struggled briefly, then pleaded "Please don't shoot," as she was captured at gunpoint by an off-duty corrections officer. Why, finally, had it come to this for Boudin, while most of her onetime radical comrades had settled for more conventional lives? "I don't have the answer, but I suspect Kathy is made of sterner stuff," says one family friend. "Also, I expect she couldn't admit failure. She couldn't go home and say, guess there isn t going to be a revolution after all.' "