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Jane Kennedy talks about her anti-war activism, crimes and experience in prison

BROADCAST: Nov. 6, 1975 | DURATION: 00:57:49


Jane Kennedy (part of the group Beaver 55) went to prison for the scrambling of magnetic tapes at the Dow Chemical napalm producing plant in Midland, Michigan, and, a week later, the destruction of draft files in Indianapolis, Indiana. Both companies were profited from the Vietnam War.


Tap within the transcript to jump to that part of the audio.


Studs Terkel My guest this morning in the studio is Jane Kennedy. She is here visiting Chicago. It's a seven-day visit.

Jane Kennedy Yes.

Studs Terkel A furlough it's called.

Jane Kennedy Yeah.

Studs Terkel More or less here to defend her right to be a nurse. Jane before we, we talk and hear your voice back in 1970 and 71 and your thoughts today. Jane is a jailbird, you know. Make that clear. Jane is going back to prison. And more of this in a moment, after this message.

Studs Terkel I thought before I ask you. Well, first of all, you feeling ok?

Jane Kennedy Yeah. I feel fine, Studs. Really fine. Yeah. I'll be bombed. Well, I have to tell you. I'll be bombed going back to prison. Now that's really gonna to be tough. You know.

Studs Terkel I wanna ask about this in a moment. Why you're here. The seven-day furlough that you have and thoughts about prison where you are and what people can do outside. I suppose you go back to the beginning when I, I heard about you very long time but when I, you first came out of the program you were about to go to prison.

Jane Kennedy Then, yeah.

Studs Terkel This is 1970. February 5th, 1970. We were talking and I was ask- Well, suppose we start right at the beginning.

Jane Kennedy OK.

Studs Terkel And Jane Kennedy is a gentle, soft spoking woman, who is the Assistant Director of Nursing at Billings Hospital, University of Chicago. Yet at this moment, she's in some trouble. She's done something that might be considered quite unladylike by some. And quite un-Jane Kennedy like by old friends. Could you explain what this is? Since you are, you have a position of some authority at Billing's, and what is it you've done?

Jane Kennedy Well I'm a member of a group who takes responsibility for two actions. One is the destruction of 1-A and 1-A delinquent draft records in Indianapolis. And the other is the descrip-destruction by scrambling of tapes stored in Dow Chemical companies memory bank in Midland, Michigan. Dow of course, is the corporation which until a relatively recently, made napalm.

Studs Terkel Well how did this come about? How, as someone might say, how did a nice girl, a nice lady like you, come about to do these things? And you could also tell us about the group Beaver 55.

Jane Kennedy Well, I came about it, Studs, because I reached a point where I had to say no to what's going on in our society. I had to say this is wrong. We as men can do much better together than we are doing in our society. And, and Daniel Berrigan says it is important at points in time to say no. Before you can begin to say yes. And so.

Studs Terkel And so Jane that was five years ago. More than that, it was February. And then you went off to a prison.

Jane Kennedy Yes. In, in in Plymouth Michigan. The DeHoCo we called it. The Detroit House of Correction. Yeah.

Studs Terkel You were there for

Jane Kennedy I was there for 14 months.

Studs Terkel Well, did you feel corrected?

Jane Kennedy You see that's part of the problem. I am not corrected and I'm not rehabilitated and the time in prison does nothing except point up problems that society has because it allows prisons.

Studs Terkel Yeah. Before if I ask and before we hear your voice then- November 1971, after spending the 14 months. What you did, you were opposed to the Vietnam War and you wanted to stop the drafting and [unintelligible] so today everybody knows that you're right. That is, pretty much people agree.

Jane Kennedy Yes

Studs Terkel Other than Neanderthals. That it was an obscene adventure. You're right but you're in prison because you are right. And you will not say you were wrong. Is that the-is that why you're in?

Jane Kennedy Yes, I guess

Studs Terkel I see

Jane Kennedy that's it. Yeah. I think if I had been to the judge down there in Indianapolis, last April and said, you know, "It was a mistake. I'm sorry I didn't mean to do it." He probably wouldn't have given me the three years in prison that I now have.

Studs Terkel Let's keep this record straight. You are now serving in a federal penitentiary in West Virginia. Alderson.

Jane Kennedy Yes.

Studs Terkel Three years.

Jane Kennedy Yes.

Studs Terkel What you've served there--

Jane Kennedy Seven--

Studs Terkel Seven months.

Jane Kennedy months.

Studs Terkel But let's go back to this. To this Detroit.

Jane Kennedy Yes.

Studs Terkel House of correction. Where you are 14 months and this is you. After you've come out. And I ask you something. You talk about women you met there, is

Jane Kennedy Yes, the women I met there.

Studs Terkel Suppose we hear.

Jane Kennedy It's it's a difficult situation for women because they have families and children at home and they see them rarely because of the prison policies. And they care very much about getting back to their family and getting back to their children because dreadful things happen to their children because they're in prison. For instance, one woman had a 12-year-old-girl. She had six other children but the her oldest was a 12-year-old-girl. Who finally said to her one visiting day "Mother if you don't get out of this place I'm going to kill myself." And she meant it. And she kept tal-, the child, kept talking about committing suicide. There's that sort of thing that happens. My f--, one of my dear friends, youngest child was 5 weeks old when she was put in prison. And they would bring the child to see her occasionally. But after, of course the child never knew who this woman was that she came to visit in prison infrequently. And after a while would refuse to go to her. The mother would not be able to hold the child in her arms because the child didn't know who she was and would cry. Well these are the horrible things that happen to women and so because of these things they want very much to get out as soon as possible.

Studs Terkel And so what happened, this was you and your experience and observations there in the Detroit House of

Jane Kennedy Yes well at Alderson women still want to get out as soon as possible. It's a-and you know at Alderson, it it's true, it's a federal prison and they say it's the country club of all prisons, Studs. But there also women see their children rarely. Not because a prisons policy is that one may visit only twice a month. But because it is so far away from urban areas from which the women come that their children and their husbands or their men, or their mothers or whomever, simply can't get there to see them. You know?

Studs Terkel I'm thinking of you Jane, you were arrested and put into prison. First for objecting the Vietnam War and doing something about it.

Jane Kennedy Yes.

Studs Terkel Now out of prison, thoughts of the conditions of prison and women is now part of your life too. You're always making trouble, aren't you?

Jane Kennedy Yes I am. I was remembering what you said a little earlier. That I was in some kind of trouble. And well if that's being in trouble, I still am. And and the problem Studs is I keep getting deeper and deeper into trouble because, you know, the things are happening at the prison now. And if I could just be there and be quiet and be submissive and not get into trouble everyone would smile at me and like me and you know I'd be a quote "model prisoner" unquote. But I I'm still in trouble inside the prison. And I guess people must think I'm a troublemaker. [laughter]

Studs Terkel You are, of course. [laughter] Fact is you will want to see more humane treatment, of course, in the nature of prisons.

Jane Kennedy Of course.

Studs Terkel You didn't like the idea of that Vietnam war. Jane you're here in Chicago. That's why you're at the station

Jane Kennedy Yes.

Studs Terkel You're here because. How's that go again? You are. You're serving three--

Jane Kennedy

Studs Terkel Three more years on top of the 14 months served there.

Jane Kennedy Yes.

Studs Terkel Three more years in the federal pen.

Jane Kennedy Yes.

Studs Terkel But you're coming here to defend- You've been a nurse how long? How long were you

Jane Kennedy Oh, I'm. I am 50 years old! Studs! Fifty. I can't believe it!

Studs Terkel You are a beautiful vital fifty.

Jane Kennedy Well, and you know, I went into training when I was 18 years old and I graduated when I was 21. So I'm a nurse 29 years.

Studs Terkel Twenty-nine years. You've been, I hear from what I gather from your colleagues, quite a marvelous nurse. And you were the Associate Director of Nurses at Billings

Jane Kennedy Yes. I

Studs Terkel What about Billings hospital? Part of the University of Chicago. Would they stick up for you?

Jane Kennedy No. They didn't. They decided that my job wouldn't be available to me when I got out.

Studs Terkel Oh did they decide that?

Jane Kennedy Yes.

Studs Terkel Did they give a reason?

Jane Kennedy I don't know why. They didn't. I didn't go back to try to get the job. And so I didn't have to face them and they didn't have to

Studs Terkel Let me get this. You don't mind if I? I just want to ask you. Billings Hospital is part of the University of Chicago.

Jane Kennedy Yes

Studs Terkel A very enlightened institution. That believes in, you know, a better humankind. Now, your job would not be available to you, as Director of nurses if you were to get out of prison. Now, why'd they say that?

Jane Kennedy Well, now this was back in 1971.

Studs Terkel Yeah.

Jane Kennedy I don't know. I didn't hear it from authorities. I heard it from sort of second and third in command in an informal way. And all I know is that they decided that they couldn't have me back there. I don't know why. I was startled when I heard that. I, you know, I don't know their reasons Studs.

Studs Terkel Now you had a pretty good record as a nurse there didn't you?

Jane Kennedy Yeah. I think I have a pretty good record as a nurse. But you see what happens, your troublemaking, my troublemaking gets in the way of of this activity for some people. For some people it's

Studs Terkel Not for the patients.

Jane Kennedy No, of course not for patients but you know for people who run institutions. I guess it gets in the way of people who, who feel most comfortable with the maintenance of a status quo. And you know the immovability of things

Studs Terkel So, the administrator of a hospital might have more in common with administrator of a prison--

Jane Kennedy Yes.

Studs Terkel -then let's say he would with a nurse or the patient.

Jane Kennedy Or the prisoner.

Studs Terkel Yes I see.

Jane Kennedy Yes. I I would guess so. I however, I do remember saying to the warden, Virginia McLaughlin, at at Alderson recently and in some of the trouble in there. She, you won't believe this, but she apologized to me for, for what she said during a meeting. In the prison community council meeting where I was asking for a better furlough policy and for us not to have the hole in the prison. You know the punishment within the punishment. Now that's the obscenity in prison. I mean the ultimate obscenity. And also asking for better medical care. And she came to the meeting where I presented this to the community council prisoners and she was very obstructive. Very, very obstructive. And so later she apologized to me and I said "Well, that was perfectly all right." I understood her position. You know I understand they they want to maintain the status quo.

Studs Terkel But why did she apol- She was obstructive, then why did she apologize to you later?

Jane Kennedy I didn't ask her why she

Studs Terkel There's a split here. Isn't it?

Jane Kennedy Yes.

Studs Terkel Of the of the per- of the administrator institutional person and the human being behind of it suddenly is apologizing to you.

Jane Kennedy Yeah. Well I I don't know if it was the human being or if there were my friends in Chicago called the prison and she got flack and she apologized.

Studs Terkel Did I ever tell you I ran into someone? Won't mention the name you know her. She was your probation officer.

Jane Kennedy Oh!

Studs Terkel And she stopped me in the street one day and she said "I admire Jane Kennedy very much.

Jane Kennedy Yeah.

Studs Terkel I just want you to know, tell her that there are a number of us that do." So we have

Jane Kennedy Yeah. Yes. You know I think all administrators, or many administrators, would also say "Well you know I approve of what you're doing completely it's just please don't do your thing in in my institution. It just creates too many [waves?]"

Jane Kennedy What

Jane Kennedy It's like remember remember when Martin King was down south and and all northern people went down south and they were for- but as soon as as King and civil rights movement really came up north it was a different bag of wax.

Studs Terkel Yeah. So, you are here now to defend whose the state? There's a state. The University of- the state of Illinois.

Jane Kennedy Yes. Is. Has a rule on licensing, that if you have a felony they have the responsibility to hold a hearing and see if you must have your license revoked or suspended or if they decide to do nothing about

Studs Terkel This particular conversation we have is taking place after the hearing, the hearing has occurred.

Jane Kennedy Uh huh.

Studs Terkel You and I are talking on this day. The hearing is tomorrow. But the audience will be hearing it after.

Jane Kennedy Yes. I understand.

Studs Terkel We in talking don't know what the decision is.

Jane Kennedy No. We certainly don't. I, you know I'm surprised that they even brought it up. For the reason that you mentioned. You know, the Vietnam War is now seen by the majority of people to be what you called an obscenity. And, and that's why I have a felony because of Vietnam War. I'm really surprised that they

Studs Terkel The state of Illinois?

Jane Kennedy Yeah the state of Illinois would.

Studs Terkel Isn't isn't this? You mean, you think maybe sense of shame is also less of a sense of shame today? I think there'll be more of a sense of shame. Maybe there's less of it? I don't know. Or as a matter of routine? Maybe, perhaps, something called routine?

Jane Kennedy Studs, do you know something? I have been really plugging unconditional amnesty for years now. And, and it seems to me, that if one thinks about it. That unconditional amnesty is an absolute necessity if our country is to go on because it's a reciprocal kind of an act. You know, it's we saying to people in prison, and in Canada and [unintelligible] discharges, you know, "let's forget it and let's go on." But it's they, if they accept it, saying "yes and I forgive you too" kind of, you know. And so I've been, I've been plugging unconditional amnesty. But people can't take hold of that. And I think one of the problems is that we don't want to face, many of us, don't want to face the issue of us as a country of people having been so wrong for so long about that war. It's hard for us.

Studs Terkel I'm thinking about you, the way you look at life-

Studs Terkel Yeah.

Studs Terkel -and 14 months up in the Detroit House of Corrections now. Seven, it'll be seven months?

Jane Kennedy The 11th of November.

Studs Terkel That you know is Armistice Day.

Jane Kennedy Yes. You

Studs Terkel The original Armistice Day. Seven months. So you said something about your feelings you feel funny strange now to be home for seven days on a furlough.

Jane Kennedy Yes. Such a military term. It's. It's as though, you know, the whole business of the military and prisons and all of the things that I find offensive in society and demeaning to us as human beings all seem to be tied in together. You know somehow or another. But you know, one of the things about that about having a furlough, Studs, I feel so strange about being here, you know? Even all the people I saw at the airport yesterday when I first left prison. Strangers. I didn't know them but I haven't seen any strangers for such a long time. I couldn't even look at them. You know that kind of mind-blowing experience. But I was thinking, I I sort of have a feel of how men must feel when they go to war and they allow them to come back on a furlough. I remember that so much from World War Two. You know men coming back on a furlough. All my brothers. And things aren't really very real back here for me. And I can see it might be that way for people in the midst of a war who's supposed to be out there fighting the war. You know, and I'm supposed to be back in prison. I don't know what I'm supposed to be doing. I guess fighting something. I

Studs Terkel You say things don't seem be-things don't seem real here.

Jane Kennedy No.

Studs Terkel Well, what's your reaction? You you've been there seven months in the West Virginia Federal Prison for Women. And now you're home-

Jane Kennedy Mmm-hmm

Studs Terkel -to defend your right to still practice as a nurse. Your license. You go back in seven days. What isn't real? What do you mean? Doesn't seem real.

Jane Kennedy Well, here is this newspaper before me, "The Chicago Daily News," it's the first time I've seen it in seven months. "And thirty-five hundred on Sahara trek cheering Moroccans across--"

Studs Terkel 350,000.

Jane Kennedy Oh yeah. Thank you. 350,000. See things like that I can't comprehend. And here "will beat Daley in Senate. Walker". Well what are they doing? What

Studs Terkel You mean what does this mean?

Jane Kennedy Yes, what does it mean? What is--

Studs Terkel Who is we who beat Daley? Whom and who does Daley represent? And whom does Walker represent? And you're asking the question what does this mean?

Jane Kennedy And what does that game? That one is going to beat the other. I mean what games are they playing out here? See in prison there are lots of games too, but they're very real and very solid and the games are you do what we say or else we're gonna to put you in the hole or segregation. Whatever they call it. But out here everybody is free and they're free to make a a better world. And what are they doing Studs?

Studs Terkel To say everybody's free. [unintelligible]. Did we ever, during one of our previous conver-, tell you about a man named Jimmy Blake? He was a friendof Nelson Algren. And Jimmy Blake has been in prison most of his life and Jimmy Blake is out once in a while. And Jimmy Blake once was passing down State Street, was on the bus and he said to Nelson, he says "Hey look at those people! If they're free why do they look like that?"

Jane Kennedy [laughs] I, yes, I agree. Freedom is, in fact, a state of mind. No question about it. It's just, it's just so tragic that there are so many opportunities out here, you know, to really try to create the kind of world we we all would love to have. And and and. And when our need to play power games, you know, so that I can be on top of the heap. Never mind how many necks I step on to get there. When our need to playpower games like that it gets in the way of our, our creating a society that you know our children and our children's children can be proud of and can move on from there with. You know the real legacy that it's possible to leave. That's such a tragedy and such a misuse of of life. It's a shame.

Studs Terkel And what the waste.

Jane Kennedy Waste.

Studs Terkel The waste. You know, we use the word waste now, as it came out of Vietnam War, as a verb. You know the euphemisms. That they kill someone. To waste someone.

Jane Kennedy Yes.

Studs Terkel We wasted those Vietnamese prisons. Just waste them. So, when the Green Berets or CIA says waste them. Which is now saying kill them or the mafia would say hit them. YOu see because the mafia, the CIA, the similar approach, of course. Where they would. But coming back to you. You were, before you were sent, this time sentenced by the Indianapolis judge.

Jane Kennedy Yes.

Studs Terkel Who said if you're a good girl and you were sorry he might not have imposed that sentence

Jane Kennedy I feel that. Yes. Because a couple of my co-defendants took that tack and and he

Studs Terkel But you were in charge. You were the nurse in charge of a clinic here, weren't you?

Jane Kennedy Oh, I wasn't in charge of a clinic.

Studs Terkel Yeah. In between prisons. In between prisons. Yeah.

Jane Kennedy I was a staff nurse.

Studs Terkel All

Jane Kennedy I wasn't in charge

Studs Terkel But you were a nurse? You were working?

Jane Kennedy I was

Studs Turkel In a clinic in a poor neighborhood?

Jane Kennedy Yes.

Studs Terkel Now, now what are you doing? What is your day like?

Jane Kennedy I seem to be very busy because of the informal things I do. I get up at six thirty and, and I have coffee. And you know, in a prison there's always a lot of noise because there's always a lot of anger and hostility, you know. And I go to breakfast and then I go to the sewing room. That's where I work. I work from just now. The sewing room. And we make garments. We make babies clothes for the women when they have

Studs Terkel So you sew? You work at a sewing machine

Jane Kennedy I work at a sewing machine. Uh-huh. And we make going away clothes for the women when they leave, you know. And then I go to lunch. And ordinarily I had a drafting class in the afternoon. A long drafting class. I learned to be a draftsman. Well, at least one course worth of learning, you know. And oh Studs, I want to tell you the beauty part of the prison. I I have a friend there. A dog. A little mongrel. It's a black and white dog. And it's a little sort of part Spaniel and part Collie and the most loving gentle dog. And I think it must be dumb because I've never heard it bark. But I heard it cry once. So, I go out and see my, my friend the dog, you know. Her- I call her Lady, because when I knew her she had a boyfriend and they just ran all over the prison together, the two of them. And they just loved one another so much,you know. They'd run together and they'd lie down together and they'd do everything together. One of the officers took the male dog home to her grandson.

Studs Terkel Officers. These are matrons and guards, all women.

Jane Kennedy Yes. Well, except for a few men. But mostly all women. And she took the dog home and so left this dog all by herself. But she was pregnant. So everyone thought well she'll have the companionship of her children. And she was so lonely. That's when I really hooked up with the dog. When when she was alone and lonely before she had the babies. And then a month later she had the babies and it was only one and it was born dead. And one night, we knew that something had happened but we didn't know what. One night, she came up on the porch where I live and the baby had just died. And she sat down next to me and she looked at me with her eyes and she began to cry, and cry, and cry. Now here is this terribly alone dog Studs. You know, having had friendship, you know, having become accustomed to it. Having given birth to a dead, tiny dog all alone in the dog world. And coming up and crying, and crying, and crying. Now, what do you say to a dog? And how do you communicate? You know, that you know it's a terrible tragedy that she has to go through. So I talked to her and I petted her and I loved her and hugged her and kissed her and I said I knew how terrible that was that she didn't have her baby. And so from then on we became buddies. And she walks me to the dining room in the morning. And I always bring her my meat from, I've given up eating meat now. I I bring her my meat from dinner and supper. And we play together and we romp together and she'll run up behind me. Never barking because she doesn't. She can't seem to bark. But she'll bump me with her, gently with her head, you know, when she runs up behind me. She'll want me to run after her and we run around the reservation. That's, that's the nicest thing. One of the nicest things that had happened to me in prison. I sort of am a, a substitute dog for Lady the dog. You know, I try to do what dogs do and I talk to her a lot and we communicate. And when I'm sitting there you know worrying she'll just sit there with me.

Studs Terkel Yeah.

Jane Kennedy But that's part of what I do.

Studs Terkel Yeah. That's part of what you do. But I'll ask about other parts of what you do in a moment and other reflections too. And about old friends and new friends. Jane Kennedy is my guest and as you may have gathered, she's, during this conversation she- it's part of the seven days in Chicago. And by the time you hear this conversation she will have returned to what appears to be her home for the next three years unless we can do something about it. Three and a half years at this West Virginia federal prison for women. We'll return to Jane in a moment after this message.

Studs Terkel So Jane Kennedy there's you and this lonely dog. Do you feel lonely?

Jane Kennedy Oh yeah. Sometimes I feel very lonely. And yet I'm surrounded b-. And and sometimes I don't Studs. The, I, I don't, but see I'm lonely I think for people who want the kind of world that I want and can understand you know those things that well up so deeply inside me. I'm lonely for them and for that kind of world. I, I guess I was born in the wrong time. [laugher]

Studs Terkel Why, why do you say that?

Jane Kennedy Well, I I I want to come back. They say, you know, you have some lives, to live. I want to come back in another life. Maybe to be a dog like Lady. I don't know.

Studs Terkel Yeah.

Jane Kennedy But just to see what kind of world we have in the 21st century, you know.

Studs Terkel You know Joyce used dog, you know, with the reversal D O G- G O D.

Jane Kennedy Listen, speaking of of the play on the term God. There're, there's a a group that meets in the prison with a young man, assistant warden. And we talk about the phenomenology of religion, you know. And he was trying to get us to think about the Genesis story and to relate to it in some way. And I said I just can't relate to that Genesis story anymore. I mean Adam and Eve and God in the Garden of Eden. And you know even there the woman came off second best, right? She ate the apple. And it was she who caused sin. And I said I cannot relate to that story but the the story that I can relate to that I think it's it's another form of a Genesis story was written by another Irishman, Samuel Beckett and that's "Waiting for Godot". I mean it seems as though "Waiting for Godot" really reflects what our society is all about. You know the not knowing where we're going and not even caring where we're going. Not asking where we're going. Just going.

Studs Terkel Yeah. The two tramps just waiting forever.

Jane Kennedy Yeah

Studs Terkel and just deliquescing finally, I suppose. Jane, I ask you something. The first time, 1970, you spoke, you spoke of your family. You came from a middle-class, rather conventional--

Jane Kennedy Oh

Studs Terkel Very nice Roman Catholic family.

Jane Kennedy Yes.

Studs Terkel Irish Roman Catholic family.

Jane Kennedy Yeah.

Studs Terkel And your family, as I recall, was backing you.

Jane Kennedy Yes.

Studs Terkel Or came to, during that. What are your family's thoughts now? Your your parents, your brothers, sisters?

Jane Kennedy I don't have any sisters but I have brothers, lots of brothers, and super, super mother and father, Studs. Well, let me tell you about my mother. She's so funny. What, they certainly back me completely, completely but

Studs Terkel On the war. And--

Jane Kennedy And my stand on the war. Yes. They hate it that I'm in prison. But they came to see me down at Alderson. And I showed them and they could see how much better a prison Alderson was than the Detroit House of Correction, you know. And they could see that for themselves. And and I think that relieved them a great deal, you know. They want very much for me to get out of prison as rapidly as possible because they see it as a terrible burden for me, you know. But my mother! She said when she came down and she saw I was all right. She came down with my father and my brother Phil who's an Alexian Brother, you know. She said, after a couple of hours she said "All right now Jane. I have something to say to you" and that, you just never know what mother is going to say. I call her Dearie 'cause that's what my father used to call her. You know that song? Dearie. Do you remember? I think that's where he got it. I said "What is it Dearie?" She said "Jane now you are 50 years old." She said "and you don't have any pension and you have a little social security. But let me tell you that Social Security doesn't go very far." So she said "Now when you get out--" now this is my mother, future-oriented. "When you get out I want you to get a full-time job with a pension. Now if you get it when you're 51 years old you'll just about have a decent pension to live on by the time you get to be sixty-five."[laughter]

Studs Terkel She has it worked out for you.

Jane Kennedy Yes! But, see, mother said "now this is another part that's important" she said. "Now Jane. When I went back to work full time--" because mother had six of us and she would work part-time. I can remember one year she took the census, you know. Because dad was a letter carrier. So, you know, they didn't have very much money. But she, after we all grew up and my youngest brother Richard was maybe six or ten or something. She went back to being a bookkeeper for the state of New Jersey and she said "I was 51 years old when I went back to work full time" and she said "I would not be able to make it now with just the Social Security. But with the Social Security and the little pension I get from the state. And your father's pension from the post office, you know, we were able to manage decently" she said. "Now you have to, you you can be just like I and start work full time when you're 51 and just get yourself a pension." It happened that at that time a nun from Chicago, Sister Margaret Traxler, was also visiting me and she heard all this. And she said "now Mrs. Kennedy, I understand that you're worried about Jane but--" she said "Jane is doing God's work and God will take care of her." And my mother [laughter] [unintelligible]. My mother is such a devout woman. She said "Listen. Yes I know about that. I thought God would take care of me too, until I had all these children." She said, [laughter] "I realize you have to get out and work. You can't depend on God earning the money for you. You have to do it yourself!" And that's my mother Studs, you know. [laughter] That's

Studs Terkel Why I ask what the audience can do so you get out at the age of 51. Instead of waiting till you're 54. I'll ask you about that. Hey, you your brothers of course, like your parents?

Jane Kennedy Oh certainly yeah. I my, my brother Phil has, you know, been to all my court appearances, comes to visit me, understands completely, has been super. My other brothers are more of what you call conventional and, you know, they try not to be troublemakers. They try to make it in society. But they care terribly much about me and they understand my stance. All of them have been in some war or another, you know. And I I think, I think they're really very proud. But it tears them up that I'm in prison. It really tear- because you know how when you grow up with brothers, you know, they feel that their role v-as brother, vis a vis, you as his sister, is to take care of you as men are supposed to take care of women in our society, you know. And I think if only they could come and just drag me out of the prison and say to the prison personnel we're not allowing her to stay here anymore, you know like they used to do. I think that would make them happy. I but they also know that I'm an independent woman and that I, you know, I have an understanding about our society. Which is my own understanding and that, you know, and I I know what I'm doing and they, much as they hate to see me be hurt. You know their-

Studs Terkel What about, does your name ever come up? Has your mother or father ever told you? Do they talk about you, the neighbors? Just curious, you

Jane Kennedy know- I don't

Studs Terkel -the community?

Jane Kennedy Oh yes! Now, across the street from us lived Mrs. Petivanna. Who makes superb spaghetti sauce.

Studs Terkel This is in New Jersey?

Jane Kennedy In New Jersey. Yes. And in the beginning when I first went to the first prison they didn't talk about it. But after we had a a big talk with my relatives and friends. And everybody seemed to at least hear from me why and so forth. And things were easier for my mother and dad. They don't talk about it a lot but they talk about it to some neighbors and now says Mrs. Petivanna says to mother "And how is Jane? Is she all right? Tell her I pray for her." You know things like that.

Studs Terkel Yeah I'm thinking of this. Jane, you mentioned Beckett earlier. There's something surreal about this whole thing as you find the papers and you're out these seven days. You know, [unintelligible] "Well, my daughter, out there, is in California doing well. Husbands at an ad agency. Fine." Or "my daughter. She's doing well at this teaching at this college." "My other daughter Jane. Oh yeah. She's in this prison down there in [laughter] Alderson. Oh fine."

Jane Kennedy But if it's surreal. It's also real, real.

Studs Terkel Yeah.

Jane Kennedy You know, because that's just the way it is now. You know, as women increasingly take seriously our role in society I think there will be more of us in prison for more of the same kind of thing, Studs. So, as long as we think we need prisons in our society I think there will be a few women around the country who will be saying my daughter so-and-so is in prison because she's protesting war or protesting dehumanization or or whatever, you know? I think more middle-class mothers and fathers will have to grow accustomed to their daughters and sons doing things like that. It's up, I think it's, it's going to be, Studs, a part of what you know the next quarter century is going to be like for all of us.

Studs Terkel Yes. It's, we were really in a certain moment, aren't we? At the moment, there is, people use the phrase apathy which I don't subscribe to at all. But there is a non-activity taking place, a non-activity on campuses and elsewhere.

Jane Kennedy That is perceivable with the naked eye.

Studs Terkel No, non-act, yeah but that is but you sense something underneath

Jane Kennedy Oh. Yes I do.

Studs Terkel You

Jane Kennedy I really do. I think when I first got out of prison, people would say to me but aren't you worried nothing's happening in the country. And and I say then, what I say now. You know, life is cyclical and we have to, I think, go into our caves and we have to contemplate after so much action and I think we're in a contemplative stage and that's as much a busy. I mean, that's, people are very busy thinking about things. I think they're terribly worried about the economy. You know, I think the role of women, just the the racist elements in society. I think all kinds of things are happening. And so that I'm sure that we'll again develop polarities. You know, and this is a magnificent opportunity for churches or, or people who are concerned with morals and ethics and--

Studs Terkel Yeah. You feel this. You, you feel, you because I imagine you're you're keener on sensing this because you're in then suddenly out. You see it's a bold relief.

Jane Kennedy Yeah.

Studs Terkel There's something surreal with the headlines.

Jane Kennedy Yeah that's, now that's surreal to me.

Studs Terkel But, you sense, you do feel that there's an under

Jane Kennedy Oh I do. Yeah. I think all kinds of things are happening. I think I see them with with some of the women I'm, I'm in prison with for example.

Studs Terkel Who are they?

Jane Kennedy They're 70 percent Black. There are many many Spanish-speaking women. They are 60 percent drug users caught with the drug business, you know, and the rest are are mostly women like who take government checks out of mailboxes or who, you know, signed government checks. A few people who do fraud or who, you know, I don't know what the word is when you change books and you take money from a company. Embezzling.

Studs Terkel Embezzling.

Jane Kennedy Yeah. That sort of thing. A few of that.

Studs Terkel What, do they know what, do they know you? Some of them?

Jane Kennedy Yeah some of them do. And and those that know me are proud. It's like I'm a part of them and they're a part of me. I stand. Those who Do

Studs Turkel know Do they know what you're in for?

Jane Kennedy Yeah.

Studs Terkel They do know

Jane Kennedy And they think it's crazy. They said "See, they'd do that to you. They're really crazy out there." Yeah. They think it's crazy. But see, mostly I mean, we don't talk about that so much-

Studs Terkel Yeah.

Jane Kennedy -because that's not important in prison. Why you're there is not important. It's a tremendous sisterhood in prison. But once you're in prison it doesn't really matter what you're there for and more- the only thing that prisoners, now I'm talkin' about women prisoners, the only thing I ever seen them intolerant about in another prisoner is a woman who has killed her children. That's the one thing that women in prison are are totally intolerant of, you know. Even though they can understand that you get high on drugs you get high on drink. You can do things, that you know are-- you're not, just not yourself. But but the women, you know, it it's hard to be a woman in prison like it's hard to be a man in prison, I'm sure. But it's such a country club prison and they offer you so many goodies if you

Studs Terkel This place you're

Jane Kennedy Yeah. If you just behave and be a nice submissive person, you know, like furlough for example. Now you know, as I said at the other prison the one thing the women wanted was to be with their children and it's the same thing with the women at this prison. And so federal prisoners are no different from state prisoners. But the way you get to be with your children is- I mean it's so far for them to go to, go to Alderson in those mountains, the furlough policy. But the furlough policy, that's one of the things I've been protesting in prison. I, you know, got all kinds of flack for it. Did I tell you this?

Studs Terkel You get flack for it. You you were [unitelligible].

Jane Kennedy I should tell you this, Studs. I mean I don't approve of rioting because I just think it's too hard on prisoners. I think you have to try to get changes other ways in prison. And so we're going about it in a very simple way and I did. I mentioned to you earlier about speaking to the community council, you know, about these things and how hard the warden took all that. A couple days after I spoke to the community council, someone who attended a a meeting, a staff meeting in the prison sent the word to me that at the management meeting I was called either a psychopath or a sociopath and that they had a a confidential report from one of the psychologists about me which said this and that there was talk of they're sending me to St. Elizabeth's in Washington D.C. St. Elizabeth's is for the mentally ill. The

Studs Terkel The mentally ill. That's where Ezra Pound was.

Jane Kennedy Exactly. Where Ezra Pound

Studs Terkel Now I wanna to come back to this. Wait a minute now. Of course, you were discussing these matters openly.

Jane Kennedy Very. Oh yes!

Studs Terkel Well they have declare you someone-they want to officially declare you nuts.

Jane Kennedy Yeah.

Studs Terkel And you say they got a psychologist to sign that?

Jane Kennedy Well, they said at the meeting that they had someone who they had this confidential report from the psychologist. Now the person who attended this meeting immediately, the meeting was over with. Went to my file in the central files and found nothing, no confidential report from this particular psychologist there. Nothing at all like that. He did find a report from another psychologist, the one whom I saw initially, who gave me what was termed to me as a clean bill of health. I was so glad Studs, that this person had the guts to send the word to me that they were talking about this.

Studs Terkel Who was it, was somebody from the prison?

Jane Kennedy Yes, but please, I don't want to say the person's

Studs Terkel On no! Of course not. But there's someone--

Jane Kennedy That person wants to remain there.

Studs Terkel Yeah,

Jane Kennedy You know. Because I, I, I, you know, I was, I was ready, Studs for, because I understand how administrators are they just don't want changes. I was ready for a lot of flack but not that.

Studs Terkel Yeah.

Jane Kennedy I, I was amazed

Studs Terkel So they go that far?

Jane Kennedy Well what happened was, so many people called the prison from Chicago and other places, you know, and they, thank heavens, one reporter called the warden to ask about this and of course there were denials of it, you know. Of course they denied all of this. There was so much pressure from the public. I hope the public realizes how important they are and how much of a difference they can make. The press and the public, because immediately there was no more talk of my going to St. Elizabeth's after that. As soon as people began to call, you know, and and really make waves.

Studs Terkel By the way, can you get letters?

Jane Kennedy Yes and I have. Studs I have received mail from must be about 800.

Studs Terkel Do you welcome letters?

Jane Kennedy Oh yeah. I

Studs Terkel So, if I were to say listeners here. Would that be all right?

Jane Kennedy Oh it would.

Studs Terkel Give your address. Your address. Your residence?

Jane Kennedy My residence is Box A, Alderson, West Virginia.

Studs Turkel Simple address. Jane Kennedy, of the Kennedys, of this Kennedy family. and it's box what?

Jane Kennedy A

Studs Terkel Box A

Jane Kennedy Alderson

Studs Terkel Simple as that? A-L-D-E-R-S-

Jane Kennedy O-N West Virginia.

Studs Terkel O-N

Jane Kennedy Yeah.

Studs Terkel And you'll receive the letter.

Jane Kennedy Yes, I

Studs Terkel These, I mean these are not censored or opened,

Jane Kennedy Yes they are Studs. They are opened. The letters are opened now. They say they don't censor them, that they only open them, open them for for contraband but they they don't open them in our presence. You see, they open them in the mail office and then they send them in the mail bag to each of our cottages and we receive these letters which happens that are opened. Can I tell you another story about that? When I was getting ready, just yesterday, to leave the prison to to come to Chicago. My little bag, overnight bag, that I packed had been checked the day before by the matron in the cottage. But the, but the officer who was checking me out from the administration building opened my handbag and I had lots of pieces of paper in it. And I, she took out some paper and I had lists of names and addresses of my friends that, that I keep in prison that I might want to contact out here. And also I had a note about one of the prisoners in prison who's been there for a long time. Who's really had a hard time in prison. Was was there for what they called the riots in seventy-three, I think, and you know, was a sort of a leader in that prison act, prisoner activities. And my goodness, the FBI has just been dreadful to her. She was just out three months and they did a trumped up charge on her because she received some, she had some mail in her possession that was radical. And that said something about blowing up an FBI offices or something. I mean it wasn't a personal letter it was a copy of something that was in some kind of underground newspaper and an FBI. Well anyway, I had this whole story and I have to contact her lawyers. She's with the People's Law Office here in Chicago. And so this woman read the whole thing and she said "well listen, I can't let you take this out. I'm going to have to check it with the higher up, you know". So I got frightened because I thought, my heavens, they'll probably throw me in the hole or do something to me. Won't let me have this furlough and I can't come to my hearing. And so I spent a couple of really anxious moments. Then I thought, listen I, I'm I'm going to contact those lawyers for this prisoner no matter what they say. One way or another I'm going to contact them. What they did to that woman is wrong, Studs. And if, see that's the point. Defending wrong. I will not, I will not cow when they defend wrong and and won't allow me even to contact lawyers for a woman's. You know, that infuriates me that, that kind of position. So I thought, you know Jane Kennedy, you better just not be, let them intimidate you. You know you keep your head up high and stop trembling. And I did. And the man came and he said "Oh Jane, I don't see anything wrong with these things you can have them." I said "Well, you know, I agree with you. I don't see anything wrong with them either." So he left. I said to this woman, who then began to go through every piece and read everything, I said "You know, I, I thought you weren't supposed to read our mail." She said "Oh, I'm not reading it." Studs, she had read every word! She said "I'm just scanning it for names." I said "Well will you please tell me what it is you are looking for because I want to discuss this with my attorney." Now as soon as I had the presence of mind to say I want to discuss what you're doing with my attorney she stopped. She stopped looking and she just kind of flipped through some papers, legal papers, I had. Now you see what happens. They say they don't do censorship. I don't know what that was if that wasn't censorship.

Studs Terkel Well you just said something else with a story I think is terribly important. You did take a stand. That is, I think so often people are cowed by the institutions.

Jane Kennedy Yeah.

Studs Terkel Their silent and accept humiliation, demeaning, whatever it is that puts them down--

Jane Kennedy Yeah.

Studs Terkel or worse because they don't know what. That person doing it is merely there--

Jane Kennedy Yeah.

Studs Terkel a a thing almost,-

Jane Kennedy Yes.

Studs Terkel -the person becomes a thing.

Jane Kennedy Yeah.

Studs Terkel Part of the computer but you stop it [unintelligible] and it would do you no harm to

Jane Kennedy Yeah.

Studs Terkel You know you can't lose! That's the thing.

Jane Kennedy Not when you're inside a prison. You

Studs Terkel But in your case, you won at that moment.

Jane Kennedy Yeah.

Studs Terkel She stopped.

Jane Kennedy Yeah.

Studs Terkel [unintelligible] I will consult, I have rights to consult my attorney. Sometimes that one aspect of it, [unintelligible] we have become, that we come again to Beckett. Samuel Beckett--

Jane Kennedy Right.

Studs Terkel has this complete acceptance.

Jane Kennedy Yeah.

Studs Terkel By the, Jane, you find this outside prison. Walking down the street, you find somebody tuck pointing, all of a sudden, right in the middle of the day and sparks are flying all the people just cross [unintelligible] around and no one objects to it being done at that moment or at that hour. You see? Or something is done and the spray hits you. No one objects. Why did the Superintendent of that building have the spray hitting the people?

Jane Kennedy Yeah.

Studs Terkel Or you ride the CTA bus and these windows don't open, some of 'em-

Jane Kennedy Yeah.

Studs Terkel and there's no air conditioning. It's hot. There's a beautiful breeze outside. No one a- how come?

Jane Kennedy Yeah.

Studs Terkel Why are these windows this way? Or no one ever says to the driver "How about some air conditioning?"

Jane Kennedy Yeah.

Studs Terkel It's the acceptance. This is a non-prison

Jane Kennedy Yeah.

Studs Terkel What Jimmy Blake calls this prison we live in.

Jane Kennedy Yeah. Indeed.

Studs Terkel So your story has all these- it's that pebble in the water.

Jane Kennedy Yeah.

Studs Terkel And all these ripples.

Jane Kennedy Let me tell you the one more ripple, about about the the you know saying stop. Now I, you know, you and I are middle-class Studs and I am fortunate enough, through the goodness of a lot of people, to be able to have a lawyer and I can say to the woman "I want to discuss this with my attorney." Now there are very few women, even in the federal prison where we're supposed to be so rich, in the federal prison. We prisoners. There are very few women who have an attorney that that they can use. You know. I'm just so fortunate that I have other people that are backing me

Studs Terkel Because the great many there you see--

Jane Kennedy They are.

Studs Terkel Haven't the chance to say I will see my lawyer.

Jane Kennedy They're just like the sparks that are flying out of the the tuck-pointing thing, you know?

Studs Terkel Jane, I'm thinkin' it's 1970 when I first met you before, about 1970 when these troubles began for you. It is now 1975. So, you were 45 then and your fiftieth birthday now.

Jane Kennedy Yeah.

Studs Terkel Life indeed does begin all the time doesn't it?

Jane Kennedy It certainly does. Yeah. I you know Studs, because of the women I've been involved in, in trying to get more decent things in in prison for us prisoners. One of the women who's also a white woman and also a middle-class woman. She began. She said, you know, she got involved, very much involved in taking risks inside prison. And she said the other day she said "You know I would never give up any of this time in prison if I hadn't had it. If I didn't get to know and live with women from circumstances so different from my own, you know. So needy. If I didn't understand how our institutions really did women in prison and men of course. If I didn't live through it I would never have known it. I would never know the reality of these things. And I am so glad." she said "I would never give anything for what I have learned. Going to prison." And I feel the same way.

Studs Terkel One question before you know [unintelligble] having lunch before this hours over and you know one, another day here of your furlough is gone. Is there a way? Is it advisable? How can it be done? I haven't ask you or your lawyer this. Can people write to somebody, letters about you? And say "Time, that's enough! You've done 14 months there." I'm getting mad now!

Jane Kennedy [laughter] Studs, you know if people, if people are at all concerned about me or you know if people are concerned about me and they want to write, you know what I wish they would do because this is what I'm really concerned about. Now you can tell from the way I'm talking I'm not hurting too much.

Studs Terkel I know,

Jane Kennedy But but Studs, what hurts me is other things. That's the- I mean that, you know, if they really care I wish they would begin to press for unconditional amnesty. See,it's that's the sickness of our society. I think Studs if we would just, if we were, if we would just press for more openness in our society and ask for unconditional amnesty and say, you know, acknowledge that we're frightened about unconditional amnesty. And we're frightened of the doors that would open, you know, of the questions we would then be allowed to ask and would be required to find the answers to. You know it would allow us to do something about the economic situation, about the racist situation, about the homosexual situation, about the situation of women, about the situation of war, and the situation of violence and the situation of poverty. All of the things we agree we have to do. If they would just please press for unconditional amnesty.

Studs Terkel Cause you see this as almost symbolizing being everything in a way.

Jane Kennedy Oh I do. To me it's the gate opener.

Studs Terkel That's to, I suppose, to whom do you write in this case?

Jane Kennedy Well.

Studs Terkel Senators, to the president, I suppose.

Jane Kennedy Yes. I understand that if the president will not grant unconditional amnesty the Congress has the ability to grant unconditional amnesty.

Studs Terkel So I suppose it's to congressmen, representatives and senators, I suppose.

Jane Kennedy Oh yes. Now see, they really would be getting me out of prison eventually if they do that because if they pass unconditional amnesty I'd fall into that category.

Studs Terkel Yeah,

Jane Kennedy But so would so many other people who need it so much more than I do Studs. You know it's like, it's like Lady when she didn't have any baby or any--

Studs Terkel The little dog

Jane Kennedy Yes. The dog was so bereft and so alone. There are so many people who are like that. Who really need unconditional amnesty. And, and but then so do we, who sit back here with the pen ready to write. We need it too because in our own way, we're in an existential sense very much separated from what's possible in our society. What we could do.

Studs Terkel Jane

Jane Kennedy I hate. It's, it's over Studs. I wish it weren't over.

Studs Terkel All right, but then to write you a letter- Box A, Alderson, West Virginia. May I suggest also to write about Jane Kennedy, you can very well write to your congressman and to your Senators too. Amnesty of course, but Jane Kennedy too. I think it's time for you to have a non-prison lunch right now.

Jane Kennedy That would be delightful, Studs. I'd

Studs Terkel Thank you very much Jane.

Jane Kennedy Thank you Studs.