More than a fondness for plants and cats

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This short description of Camilla Hall appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle on May 18, 1974 — the day after the shootout with Los Angeles police that killed Camilla and five others.

This is the type of media coverage that I’m battling against, and why I want to develop a more complete portrait of Camilla through a narrative biography. You can read an account in the media and think you know someone, or think you know the story. You’re lulled into a sense of being informed. You know a little bit, but what if the information is wrong? Or biased? Or incomplete?

Here, Camilla is distilled into a single trope: “She liked plants and cats.” While that’s true, it’s incomplete. It makes her sound like a simpleton. What I’ve been finding in my research is that once Camilla got assigned a simple description — often “militant” or “angry” or “lovelorn” lesbian — that’s the description that stayed with her throughout the scant coverage of the SLA members who were not named Patty Hearst. Camilla appeared for a brief moment in the media spotlight, and then disappeared.

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