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Kathy Boudin (born May 19, 1943) is a former American radical who was convicted in 1984 of felony murder for her participation in an armed robbery that resulted in the killing of three people. She later became a public health expert while in prison. She was released from prison in 2003.


Early life and family

Kathy Boudin was born on May 19, 1943, into a Jewish family with a long left-wing history, and she was raised in Greenwich Village, New York. Her great-uncle was Louis Boudonovitch Boudin, a Marxist theorist. Her father, attorney Leonard Boudin, had represented such controversial clients as Judith Coplon, Fidel Castro, and Paul Robeson.[1] A National Lawyers Guild attorney, Leonard Boudin was the law partner of Victor Rabinowitz, himself counsel to numerous left-wing organizations. Kathy’s older brother, Michael Boudin, is currently a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.

Kathy Boudin attended kindergarten at the Little Red School House and its high school, the Elisabeth Irwin High School in Manhattan. Although she went to Bryn Mawr College intending to prepare for medical school, her interests quickly turned to politics. Her last year at Bryn Mawr was spent studying in the Soviet Union. In 1965, she studied for a year in the Soviet Union, was paid 75 rubles a month by the Soviet government and, according to her résumé, taught on a Soviet collective farm. Kathy Boudin also attended receptions and functions with her parents at the Cuban Mission to the United Nations in New York. She also attended Case Western Reserve University School of Law for one year.

Weather Underground

In the 1960s and 1970s, Boudin became heavily involved with the Weather Underground. The Weathermen bombed the Pentagon, the US Capitol, the New York Police Benevolent Association, the New York Board of Corrections, as well as the offices of multinational companies. Boudin, along with Cathy Wilkerson, was a survivor of the 1970 Greenwich Village townhouse explosion, the premature detonation of a nail bomb that had been intended for a soldiers' dance at Fort Dix, New Jersey.[2] Boudin was 27 at the time. Both women were awaiting trial, out on bond for their alleged actions in Days of Rage in Chicago several months earlier. Wilkerson had been released on a $20,000 bond and Boudin was out on a $40,000 bond.

A declassified FBI report on foreign contacts of the Weather Underground Organization produced by the FBI’s Chicago Field Office reported that, "On February 10, 1976, a source in a position to possess such information advised that Leonard Boudin ... had indicated to a friend that Kathie [sic] was presently in Cuba."[citation needed] The law firm of Boudin and Rabinowitz provided legal representation for the Cuban government in the United States.[3]

1981 Brinks Robbery

In 1981, when Kathy Boudin was 38 years old, she and several members of the Weather Underground and the Black Liberation Army robbed a Brinks armored car at the Nanuet Mall, in Nanuet, New York. After Boudin dropped her infant son, Chesa, at a baby sitter's, she took the wheel of the getaway vehicle, a U-Haul truck. She waited in a nearby parking lot as her heavily armed accomplices took another vehicle to a local mall where a Brinks truck was making a delivery. They confronted the guards and gunfire immediately broke out, severely wounding guard Joe Trombino and killing his co-worker, Peter Paige. The four then took $1.6 million in cash and rendezvoused with Boudin.

An alert high-school student called the police after spotting the gang abandoning the getaway vehicle and entering the U-Haul. A police officer spotted and pulled over the U-Haul, but they could see only Boudin in the driver's seat. Boudin then got out of the cab, and raised her hands.

The police officers who caught them testified that Boudin, feigning innocence, pleaded with them to put down their guns and got them to drop their guard; Boudin said she remained silent, that the officers relaxed spontaneously. After the police lowered their weapons, six of the men in the back of the truck armed with automatic weapons came out of the back of the truck, surprising the four police officers, one of whom, Waverly Brown, was killed instantly. Boudin and David Gilbert, a Weatherman radical and the father of Boudin's infant son, allegedly acted as decoys as well as getaway drivers: The Brinks robbers the police were searching for were all from the Black Liberation Army and drove a red car. Officer Edward O'Grady lived long enough to empty his revolver, but as he reloaded, he was shot several times with an M16. Ninety minutes later, he died in hospital. The other two officers escaped with only minor injuries. The occupants of the U-Haul scattered, some climbing into another getaway car, others carjacking a nearby motorist while Boudin attempted to flee on foot. An off-duty corrections officer apprehended her shortly after the shootout. When she was arrested, Boudin gave her name as Barbara Edson.

Three other Black Liberation Army members failed to escape that day. Weathermen Gilbert, Samuel Brown, and Judith Alice Clark crashed their car while making a sharp turn, and were arrested by police. Two days later, Samuel Smith and Nathaniel Burns were spotted in a car in New York. After a gunfight with police that left Smith dead, Burns was captured. Three more participants were arrested several months later.

The majority of the defendants received three consecutive sentences of 25 years to life, making them eligible for parole in the year 2058. Boudin hired Leonard Weinglass to defend her. Weinglass, a law partner of Boudin's father, arranged for a plea bargain and Boudin pled guilty to one count of felony murder and robbery, in exchange for one twenty-year to life sentence.


Boudin was incarcerated in the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility for Women in New York where she worked with AIDS patients and in adult education. While there, she had a central role in creating five formal programs:[4]

  • the Teen Program, supporting teens and pre-teens whose mothers are incarcerated, strengthening the mother-child bond during their separation, and helping the teens become positive, healthy, young adults;
  • the Parent Education Program, helping inmate mothers to learn to be responsible parents to pre-school, grade school and teenage children while separated by prison;
  • the Adult Literacy Program, which used an innovative curriculum that Boudin wrote, was an outgrowth of the work she did for her Masters Degree in Adult Education, earned while at Bedford Hills;
  • the AIDS and Women’s Health Program is the first peer community health program devoted to AIDS among prisoners; and
  • the College Program, which provided courses and degrees to incarcerated women. Boudin helped organize a consortium of private colleges to offer this program after New York State cut all public funding for higher education in prisons.

While incarcerated, Boudin published articles in the Harvard Educational Review ("Participatory Literacy Education Behind Bars: AIDS Opens the Door," Summer 1993, 63(2)),[5], 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 and Therapy, 21),[6] 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.[6] She co-edited Parenting from inside/out: Voices of mothers in prison, jointly published by correctional institutions and the Osborne Foundation.[7]

Boudin also wrote and published poetry while incarcerated, publishing in books and journals including the PEN Center Prize Anthology Doing Time, Concrete Garden 4, and Aliens at the Border.[8] She won an International PEN prize for her poetry in 1999.[9]

Boudin continued to pursue her education as a doctoral student at the City University of New York (CUNY), which included participation in the CUNY Graduate Center research team that produced the study Changing Minds: The Impact of College in a Maximum-Security Prison.[10]


Boudin was granted parole on August 20, 2003 in her third parole hearing, and released from Bedford Hills Correctional Facility on September 17, 2003. She accepted a job in the H.I.V./AIDS Clinic at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center, meeting the work provisions of parole that required active job prospects.[11]

A controversy arose as the victim's family and others disputed whether she was truly contrite for her crime or instead was masking her radical politics in order to gain her freedom. Supporting this allegation was a statement, years earlier, from William Kunstler, a law partner of Leonard Weinglass, Boudin's attorney. Kunstler had explained Boudin's evolution from political activist to violent revolutionary: “I went to Bedford Hills penitentiary a few weeks ago and talked to Kathy Boudin. Kathy had reached a point where she thought, along with others, that non-violence was ineffective, and that you have to take the next step, into violence.” [12]

In May 2004, after her parole, Boudin published in the Fellowship of Reconciliation's publication Fellowship.[13]

See also

  • Cathy Wilkerson - (Weatherman member who survived the bomb explosion in New York City)
  • Ted Gold- (Weatherman member who died in bomb explosion in New York City)
  • Chesa Boudin - (son of Kathy Boudin, raised by guardians while parents were in prison)
  • Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn - (guardians of Chesa Boudin during his childhood, former Weathermen leaders)


  1. ^ "Underground Woman". New York Times. November 2, 2003. Retrieved 2008-07-21. "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." 
  2. ^ Rudd, Mark. "The Kids are All Right". Retrieved 2008-10-10. "On the morning of March 6, 1970, three of my comrades were building pipe bombs packed with dynamite and nails, destined for a dance of non-commissioned officers and their dates at Fort Dix, N.J., that night." 
  3. ^ Rabinowitz, Victor, Unrepentant Leftist: A Lawyer's Memoir, Beacon Press, 1980, ISBN 978-0252022531
  4. ^ NIFL-WOMENLIT 2002: [NIFL-WOMENLIT:2284] Kathy Boudin
  5. ^ Resources on Prisons
  6. ^ a b
  7. ^ Microsoft Word - Sp 05 Psy 312 Syllabus 011705.doc
  8. ^ Wall tappings :an international anthology of women's prison writings, edited by Judith A. Scheffler (at Google books)
  9. ^ PEN American Center - 1998-1999
  10. ^ THE GRADUATE CENTER, CUNY: Press Information
  11. ^ "Boudin Freed From Prison After Serving 22 Years". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-07-21. "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." 
  12. ^ October 1995; Z Magazine, ‘The Life and Times of William Moses Kunstler,’ Interview by Dennis Bernstein & Julie Light; October 1995.
  13. ^ Boudin, Kathy. "Making a Different Way of Life". Retrieved 2008-10-12. 

Further reading



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