Hearst, Patricia Campbell (1954—)

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Hearst, Patricia Campbell (1954—)

American kidnap victim turned bank robber. Name variations: Patty Hearst; Tania. Born Patricia Campbell Hearst in 1954, in San Francisco, California; daughter of Randolph Apperson Hearst and Catherine (Campbell) Hearst (1917–1998); attended Santa Catalina boarding school; graduated from Crystal Springs School for Girls; attended Menlo Junior College; attended University of California at Berkeley; married Bernard Shaw, in 1979; children: daughter.

Born in San Francisco, California, in 1954, into the wealthy and well-known Hearst family, Patricia Campbell Hearst led a pampered life as a child. Her father Randolph Apperson Hearst was chair of the board of the Hearst Corporation and the son of publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst. Her mother Catherine Campbell Hearst was a genteel Southern woman from Atlanta. The middle of five daughters, Patty was encouraged by her parents in athletics and displayed talents at tennis, swimming and horseback riding. She enjoyed deep-sea fishing and duck hunting with her father who taught her how to use a rifle, and she became proficient at skeet shooting.

Hearst's high school years began at Santa Catalina School, a boarding school in Monterey, south of San Francisco, run by Dominican nuns. She was not an outstanding student and in her junior year (1970), she enrolled at Crystal Springs School for Girls. While there, she fell in love with a young teacher, Steve Weed, and they began a lengthy affair. Upon graduation from high school, Hearst attended Menlo Junior College but had no career plans. When Weed won a fellowship and teaching grant to the University of California at Berkeley, she followed him and enrolled at there. They became engaged in December of 1973.

In February of 1974, the life Patty Hearst had known came to an end. The Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA), an obscure terrorist group consisting of three men and three women, broke into her apartment and kidnapped Hearst, while Steve Weed looked on helplessly. The group's goals were confused and methods illplanned from the beginning. Hearst was kept in a closet and brainwashed for two months while her captors demanded a ransom of $2 million in food to be distributed to the poor. By April of 1974, Hearst had pledged her allegiance to the SLA, calling herself "Tania" and referring to her father as a "corporate liar." The nation was spellbound by her situation, debating the question of whether she was a willing SLA accomplice or a victim of the group.

That April, Hearst participated in a robbery of the Hibernia Bank in San Francisco as a member of the SLA. She remained with the terrorists until 1975, eluding the authorities at every turn. As the pressure intensified, the small group became paranoid and anxious, moving quickly from place to place to avoid detection. Hearst was finally captured on September 18, 1975, in an apartment in San Francisco. After a lengthy trial, she received a sentence of seven years in a California prison for armed robbery.

Despite the wealth and power of the Hearst family and the efforts of well-known defense attorney, F. Lee Bailey, all attempts to overturn her conviction were unsuccessful. However, President Jimmy Carter commuted her sentence in February of 1979 after she had served less than 23 months. Hearst married her former bodyguard, Bernard Shaw, two months after her release. In 1996, in collaboration with Cordelia France Biddle , Patricia Hearst published her first novel, Murder at San Simeon. She has also appeared in several movies directed by John Waters, including Cry-Baby and Pecker.


Hearst, Patricia Campbell, with Alvin Moscow. Every Secret Thing. NY: Doubleday, 1982.

Judith C. Reveal , freelance writer, Greensboro, Maryland

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Hearst, Patricia Campbell (1954—)

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