Cathlyn Wilkerson

The Weathermen were a radical offshoot of Students for a Democratic Society. Though the faction expressed support for women’s liberation and Black Power, it was composed almost entirely of upper-middle-class whites. Members were urged “to be willing to fight people, and fight things in ourselves . . . white privilege, racism, male supremacy.” Cathlyn Wilkerson (raised in Connecticut, educated at Swarthmore) became a member in 1969.

On March 6, 1970, Weathermen at a Manhattan townhouse belonging to Wilkerson’s father were trying to construct a nail bomb. A nail bomb uses bits of shrapnel to produce a larger radius of destruction and increase its wounding ability. The Weathermen intended to set off these devices at Fort Dix Army base as well as at Columbia University, but Weatherman Terry Robbins short-circuited the timer. So little was left of him that his remains went unidentified until the Weathermen claimed him as a fallen comrade. Weathermen Ted Gold and Diana Oughton were also killed. Wilkerson and Kathy Boudin escaped the explosion and went into hiding. Wilkerson evaded capture for 10 years.

On July 8, 1980, Wilkerson surrendered. She spent 11 months in jail for possession of dynamite.

Upon release, she became a math teacher. In a 2003 interview with The New York Times, Wilkerson, expressing only vague remorse, said of the Weathermen’s violent agenda, “[I]t looked like it was going to be the main vehicle for ushering in popular governments.”

In the same article, Professor Harvey Klehr of Emory University pointed out, “The only reason they were not guilty of mass murder is mere incompetence.”