Kathy Boudin Of Weather Underground Has Family Ties To Radical Politics

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Kathy Boudin was a 1960s radical, who was a member of the militant leftist group Weather Underground, a splinter group from Students for a Democratic Society. But she became known nationwide when she took part in a robbery of a Brink's armored vehicle in Nyack, New York on October 20, 1981, as a means to raise money for the Black Liberation Army, according to The Guardian. Although Boudin was meant to be a decoy and didn't have a gun, Brink's guard Peter Paige and two Nyack police officers, Sgt. Edward O'Grady and Officer Waverly Brown were killed in the robbery by others in the group. She surrendered and was sentenced to 20 years to life. After serving 22 years, Boudin was released in 2003, per WNYC.

At the time, people wondered how a woman in her 30s, who was the valedictorian of the class of 1965 at the prestigious Bryn Mawr College, (per SF Gate) could find herself mixed up in radical politics with a violent edge. "The very status of being underground was an identity for me," she recalled to The New Yorker [via The New York Times], adding: "I was making a difference in no way, so then I elevated to great importance the fact that I was underground." But the truth is, Boudin was surrounded by leftists from the time she was born. They were not all necessarily militants, but her immediate and extended family — and their social circles — were filled with prominent leftists, including lawyers, judges, writers, and intellectuals.

Kathy Boudin's parents were both leftist intellectuals

Kathy Boudin was born on May 19, 1943, to Jean Roisman Boudin and Leonard Boudin in Manhattan, and she was raised in Greenwich Village. Jean was a poet and an activist committed to pacifist principles. According to Susan Braudy's Family Circle: The Boudins and the Aristocracy of the Left, Jean was tear-gassed in 1939 while she was part of a protest against the Bremen, a Nazi passenger ship that was regularly docked in Manhattan on the Hudson River for years before the United States entered World War II. But when her son, Michael, was born later in 1939, she curtailed her political activity to raise him and, four years later, Kathy.

Kathy's father, Leonard, was a noted civil liberties lawyer who defended a lengthy list of controversial clients, including civil rights leader Julian Bond, activist and entertainer Paul Robeson, pediatrician and politician Benjamin Spock, and Pentagon whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, per The Washington Post. He also represented the governments of Cuba, Algeria, and Libya. He practiced primarily labor and civil liberties law, but his highest-profile victory came in 1958 when the Supreme Court ruled that passports cannot be withheld by the State Department for political reasons. "Boudin's great contribution came during the McCarthy era during the 1950s when he kept his constitutional bearings and acted as a guardian of important public values at a time of general institutional default,” Boudin's biographer told The New York Times upon Boudin's death in 1989.

Kathy Boudin's great-uncle Louis Boudin was a Marxist theorist

Louis B. Boudin was born Louis Boudianoff on February 15, 1874, in Ukraine, which was then under Imperial Russian rule. His family emigrated to the United States when he was a teenager as a means to flee the repression of Jews in czarist Russia. In New York City, the family shortened its name to Boudin and they became naturalized citizens in 1897, per the Encyclopedia of the American Left. Louis Boudin worked a number of part-time jobs while he put himself through school at New York University and became a member of the bar New York State Bar Association in 1897, working as one of the city's most prominent labor lawyers. He also wrote several books and articles on Marx, as well as the American government system.

Over the next two decades, he established himself as a leader in many socialist and communist organizations in New York. At first, Boudin was a member of the Socialist Labor Party of America but left in 1899 over party in-fighting to join the Communist Labor Party of America and the Communist Party of America. But even that party left a bad taste in Boudin's mouth after an argument over Marx's Communist Manifesto, saying in disgust, "I did not leave a party of crooks to join a party of lunatics," according to Jack Ross' The Socialist Party of America. By 1940, Boudin renounced communism but remained committed to leftist causes, generally speaking.

Kathy Boudin's uncle I.F. Stone was a progressive muckraking journalist

Starting his career as the D.C. correspondent for The Nation, and then a columnist or editorial writer for other publications, including the New York Post, I.F. Stone was most well-known — and beloved — for his anti-establishment newsletter called I.F. Stone's Weekly, per Poynter. His muckraking style of journalism, in which he combed through public records and congressional transcripts to find broken promises and hypocrisy among politicians before it was easily searchable, made him something of a hero among the New Left of the 1960s and 1970s. As far as he was concerned, he was just doing his job. "Either you are reprinting the press releases or you come up with something new," he once told the New York Post [via the Los Angeles Times].

Stone put the newsletter out for 19 years and amassed a circulation of 70,000 before he shuttered the publication in 1972. During that time, his journalism was a thorn in the side of the highest levels of government by challenging the U.S. government's role in the Vietnam War, bringing attention to racist and anti-Semitic practices in the FBI, and criticizing the Cold War, among other hard-hitting stories. During the Nixon years, Stone's reporting had become so poignant that then-Vice President Spiro Agnew labeled him "another strident voice of illiberalism," according to The New York Times.

Boudin's partner David Gilbert became radicalized in the 1960s

David Gilbert was born in Brookline, Massachusetts in 1944. As a teenager, he was inspired by the Civil Rights Movement, and, after moving to New York City as a student at Columbia College at Columbia University, Gilbert joined a number of organizations dedicated to civil rights, as well as anti-war groups and Students for a Democratic Society, according to Dan Berger's book, Outlaws of America: The Weather Underground and the Politics of Solidarity. He had been dedicated to non-violent, civil disobedience work. But something snapped in Gilbert in 1968 when the murders of civil rights workers escalated. "The change for me came after Martin Luther King [Jr.] was assassinated," Gilbert later recalled, per NBC. He added: "That's the point where I abandoned the nonviolent philosophy."

Kathy Boudin and David Gilbert met and began dating in the 1970s during their time together in Weather Underground. The two had coordinated a number of operations together over the course of several years. In August 1980 came the birth of their son, Chesa Boudin. Just 14 months later, David joined Kathy on that heist of the Brink's truck with the Black Liberation Army. Although Gilbert was also unarmed, he was charged with robbery and murder for his role and was sentenced to 75 years to life in prison. Per the AP, Then-governor of New York Andrew Cuomo commuted his sentence before leaving office in 2021, noting Gilbert was the driver and not the murderer.

Boudin's brother was the black sheep of the family

Not all of the Boudin family members were leftists. Kathy's older brother and only sibling, Michael Boudin, is the complete opposite of the rest of the clan. From an early age, Michael displayed what some friends of the family later described as intrinsic conservative proclivities. He began to notice significant differences between his own views and those of his family during regular gatherings at their home, which were attended by left-wing artists, dissidents, and intellectuals. "He saw the best of the left, but he also saw the wreckage that unrestrained moral intensity on the left can create," Jamie Kalven, a close friend of the Boudins, told The New York Times.

Later, he went to Harvard University and then Harvard Law School. While Kathy became involved with the Weather Underground, Michael worked as a law clerk on the U.S. Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court from 1965 to 1966. He then joined the Washington powerhouse firm of Covington & Burling before being called up to serve in the Justice Department under Reagan in 1987. After that, per The Washington Post, Boudin was appointed District Judge of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia by President George H.W. Bush before the president appointed him Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in Boston. Throughout all his career moves, he reportedly did not speak of Kathy, and his friends knew to not mention the subject.