Widow of Abbie Hoffman Dies

Thursday, December 31, 1998
By MICHAEL WARREN, Associated Press Writer

SAN FRANCISCO--Anita Hoffman, who helped then-husband Abbie Hoffman plot the most memorable pranks of the Yippie movement and later helped him stay hidden for years from the FBI, has died of breast cancer. She was 56. Ms. Hoffman died Sunday afternoon at a friend's home in San Francisco, three years after she learned she had cancer, said her sister, Truusje Kushner. "She felt she had a very full life," her sister said. "As horrible as it was that she had this fatal illness, it wasn't as if she hadn't lived. She felt she had a full life and no regrets."

Ms. Hoffman helped Abbie disrupt the New York Stock Exchange by throwing money on the trading floor, encircle the Pentagon in a protest against the Vietnam War and plan the demonstrations in Chicago during the 1968 Democratic National Convention.

In one of her most audacious moves, she went to Algeria to meet with Black Panther leader Eldridge Cleaver and try to forge a coalition between the Panthers and the Yippies.

"She was shocked by Cleaver's dictatorial and misogynist behavior," biographer Marty Jezer said, and "escaped Cleaver's authority by climbing out a window, talking her way through customs and flying to Paris."

Ms. Hoffman may be most remembered, however, for how she supported Hoffman while he lived underground to escape drug charges, raising their son America. He went underground in 1974 and didn't emerge until nearly seven years later. "The FBI was crawling around everywhere," Ms. Kushner said. "She for years was bringing up their son and she was Abbie's conduit to the world, using mail drops to send him money and making sure he was taken care of."

Born Anita Kushner and raised in a middle-class Jewish family in New York, she was a civil rights activist long before she knew Hoffman. She had worked to document police brutality in New York and was a supporter of the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee.

The two met when he was running Liberty House, a New York store that sold crafts made by Poor People's Cooperatives in Mississippi. They began living together two weeks later.

Though the couple eventually divorced, Ms. Hoffman continued helping her husband, even after he began seeing another woman while living in Canada. He committed suicide in 1989, at age 52. After his death, she joined with Hoffman's companion, Johanna Lawrenson, in writing letters protesting a planned television program about Hoffman that they consided unfair.

Ms. Hoffman also was a free-lance writer and novelist. She wrote a memoir, "To America with Love: Letters from the Underground," and later, under a pseudonym, she wrote a novel titled "Trashing," Ms. Kushner said.

Recently, as cancer slowed her down, she lived in Petaluma, selling rare books, creating content for a computer company and suggesting script rewrites for "Steal This Movie," a film based on the life of the Hoffmans that is being finished this spring.

"I think she was an enormous force in his life in every way: personally, romantically, as soldiers in arms," said Robert Greenwald, who is directing and producing the film.

Actress Janeane Garofalo, who plays Ms. Hoffman in the film, called her "a very, very bright woman who definitely marched to the beat of her own drummer. She was very dynamic. When she walked into the room, you knew she was there." Survivors include her younger sister, her son and her mother. Copyright 1998 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved Search the archives of the Los Angeles Times for similar stories. You will not be charged to look for stories, only to retrieve one.