Rachael Hanel

Nov 11, 2022

Not the Camilla We Knew

One Woman's Life from Small-Town America to the Symbionese Liberation Army

University of Minnesota Press 2022

How could an artist and former social worker from small-town Minnesota become one of the most wanted domestic terrorists in the United States? Camilla Hall was a pastor's daughter who eventually joined the notorious Symbionese Liberation Army before dying in a shootout with Los Angeles Police in May 1974. 

In Not the Camilla We Knew: One Woman's Path from Small-town America to the Symbionese Liberation Army (University of Minnesota Press, 2022), Rachael Hanel traces Hall’s path from her Minnesota home to her final, radical SLA family—through welfare offices, political campaigns, union organizing, and a love affair that would be her introduction to the SLA. Through in-depth research and extensive interviews, Hanel pieces together Camilla's bewildering transformation from a "gentle, zaftig, arty, otherworldy" young woman (as one observer remarked), working for social change within the system, into a gun-wielding criminal involved in the kidnapping of Patty Hearst. As Hanel writes, contemporary reporters “struggled to find an easy narrative for her life and when they couldn’t find one, they made one up.” Moving past these thin, often salacious narratives that paint Camilla as a duped ex-girlfriend or a militant radical, this book recovers both the deep humanity and the extraordinary circumstances of Camilla Hall's life. At a time of mounting unrest and violence, Hall’s story is a reminder of how the forces of radicalization can operate in an individual life

Rebecca Turkington is a PhD Candidate in History at Cambridge University studying transnational women’s networks.

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