According to a statement released by the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office, Kathy Boudin, a radical communist convicted in the tragic Brink’s heist who rehabilitated former inmates and the mother of Chesa Boudin, died Sunday afternoon at her home in New York. Her age was 78.
San Francisco Chronicle and SFGATE are owned by Hearst but operate independently. Chesa Boudin revealed to the Chronicle, which initially broke the news, that his mother had been battling cancer for seven years. To say farewell and meet her one final time, he flew back to New York on a red-eye flight, characterizing her as “unshakably cheerful and fearless.”
She stayed long enough to meet her grandchild and welcome her father home after 40 years in prison.
“According to a statement sent to SFGATE by Boudin’s office, “For the entirety of her 22-year jail period, she developed the habit of ending every phone contact with a chuckle, as a way of conveying her feelings of joy and hoped to everyone she spoke with, including me, in particular. For the rest of her life, she was continually looking for ways to give back to others.”
On May 19, 1943, Kathy Boudin was born in New York City’s Greenwich Village to civil rights lawyer and left-wing activist Leonard Boudin and poet Jean (Roisman) Boudin. At Bryn Mawr College, she studied Russian and graduated as the class valedictorian in 1965.
According to the district attorney’s office, she was “so radicalized” by the anti-war and civil rights movements of the ’60s that she became a member of the Weather Underground, a radical communist organization.
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What Happened At 1981 Heist?
After fleeing an explosion at a Manhattan townhouse where the organization had been making bombs purportedly meant for Fort Dix army installation in New Jersey, Kathy Boudin married David Gilbert in 1970, the same year she gave birth to their son Chesa, who was born in hiding.
At a Brink’s armored car at the Nanuet Mall in New York in October of that year, Kathy Boudin, Gilbert, and other organization members collaborated with Revolutionary Armed Task Force and the Black Liberation Army to steal $1.6 million.
A Brink’s guard was shot and killed by one of their accomplices, and two New York police officers were slain during the escape by the trio. As the unarmed driver and passenger of the getaway car, Kathy Boudin and Gilbert were each charged with first-degree murder for their roles in the crime. Boudin also functioned as a decoy in the case.
Bill Ayers and his wife, Bernardine Dohrn, adopted 14-month-old Chesa Boudin from the Weather Underground. While Gilbert went to trial, Kathy Boudin accepted a plea deal and was sentenced to Bedford Hills Correctional Facility, where she was released on parole in 2003. On August 23, 2021, he was given mercy by Governor Andrew Cuomo, and on November 4, 2021, he was released and reunited with his wife.
kathy boudin died today, may day…
she inspired many,worked tirelessly, and loved deeply. i was glad I got to know her through filming/interviewing her….a unique human
— Robert Greenwald (@robertgreenwald) May 1, 2022
How Was Kathy Boudin’s Life In Prison?
In prison, Kathy Boudin wrote for the Harvard Educational Review and other journals, taught literacy workshops, and advocated for the reinstatement of college courses in Bedford Hills following the termination of Pell Grants.
The district attorney’s office stated that she became the first woman to get a master’s degree in adult education and literacy while serving a sentence in a New York state jail. As a prisoner, Kathy Boudin battled tirelessly for the release of imprisoned mothers and their children.
She also co-wrote “The Foster Care Handbook for Incarcerated Parents” and published poems, winning the International PEN Prize for her efforts in the field.
An official statement from the district attorney’s office stated that she had “serious worries about the role of violence in political movements and the repercussions of her political decisions.” The statement also noted that she had had regular contact with her son for 22 years before the heist.
Kathy Boudin’s Life After She Was Released From Jail
According to the New York Times, she worked for the HIV/AIDS Center at St. Luke’s Hospital HIV/AIDS Center after her release and supported former convicts as they prepared for life on the outside.
As a co-founder of the Center for Justice at Columbia University, she studied mass incarceration and its causes and effects.
When Jarrell E. Daniels, a staff member at Columbia University’s Center for Justice and an ex-inmate, said that “Kathy’s legacy, mission and lifetime commitment to furthering social justice… will never be forgotten, especially by those who she impacted,” the statement read. “Kathy was a living icon who beat the odds and broke through barriers for many of us. “She will not be forgotten.'”
According to the district attorney’s office, Kathy Boudin is survived by her brother Michael Boudin, her husband Gilbert, and their son Chesa Boudin. She was also survived by her daughter-in-law Valerie Block.