Keerdoja

From Newsweek, November 8, 1976:
Squeaky and Sara Jane

EILEEN KEERDOJA with bureau reports

On Sept. 5, 1975, one of cult murderer Charles Manson’s female disciples aimed a .45-caliber pistol at President Ford outside the Statehouse in Sacramento, Calif., and pulled the trigger. Fortunately, though there were four bullets in the clip, the firing chamber was empty. Secret Service men pounced on Lynette (Squeaky) Fromme. But barely two weeks later, on another Presidential visits to California, another woman—a quasi-radical bookkeeper who had once served as an FBI informant—also waited in ambush with a concealed handgun. As Ford strode from a San Francisco hotel to his waiting limousine, Sara Jane Moore fired a single wild shot before being disarmed and seized.

Within four months, both Fromme and Moore had been tried, convicted and sentenced to life terms for their assassination attempts. The following reports are based on interviews with prison officials and caseworkers; Sara Jane Moore was interviewed in prison by Janet Huck, but Lynette Fromme declined NEWSWEEK’s request for an interview. Squeaky Fromme, who recently turned 28, has been serving her sentence at the San Diego Metropolitan Correctional Center, a modern Federal prison overlooking San Diego Bay.The lobby is decorated with plants and colorful graphics, and only a walk-through metal detector reminds visitors that this is the entrance to a prison and not some handsomely furnished office building. Prisoner Fromme occupies an uncarpeted 8-foot by 12-foot cell with a barless but escape-proof window – a floor-to-ceiling slit 5 inches wide. Along with her fellow inmates, she wears a pants outfit with a choice of bouses – one which is a Bicentennial print adorned with Liberty Bells, Revolutionary War soldiers and fife-and-drum bandsmen.

Mall Threats: In her job as a prison orderly, Fromme scrubs and waxes floors and dusts cells seven hours a day, earning 50 cents an hour. She spends a good deal of her free time writing long letters – as many as ten a day, all in longhand. All her mail is screened by prison censors because – as the prison authorities discovered by way of phone calls from the FBI and worried recipients of Squeaky’s letters – she is in the habit of writing threats to executives of the Environmental Protection Agency and other organizations that, in her view, are not doing enough to curb pollution. Ecology is her favorite cause, but only one of several issues that Fromme reads about intently in newspapers and magazines. Says Jack Shuk, one of her caseworkers: “She is provoked by what she reads, but doesn’t really appear to have any indept knowledge of the subjects.” One of her protests, however, came from an insiders’s viewpoint: after the movie “Helter Skelter” was shown at the prison last April, Fromme called the local newspapers – collect – to complain about its depiction of Manson.

Unlike Squeaky Fromme, who is described by another inmate as withdrawn and something of a loner, Sara Jane Moore has established herself as a joiner and activist in confinement. As a highrisk prisoner at the Terminal Island Federal Correctional Institution in Los Angeles, she is not housed in the main women’s compound but in a 5-foot by 8-foot cell in a separate dormitory used chiefly to house incoming prisoners. At first, she told interviewer Huck, “all we could do was stay inside that hole or go outside during the day and sit on a bench next to the building.” in March, Moore staged a one-woman strike, refusing to perform her assigned chores and posting a manifesto on her cell-block wall. Prison officials gave in to the extent of allowing the women in the dorm to walk in the courtyard, sit on the grass and even play miniature golf.

Activities: Moore then returned to work but was transferred at her own request from a typing stint in the prison’s business office to a job in the kitchen. She began by mopping floors and wiping tables, graduated to the cary squad that delivers tryas to shut-ins, then became a member of the cook’s crew. it is a twelve-hour day in the kitchen, but Moore gets every other day off. She has enough leftover energy for such leisure-time activities as jogging, attending a creative-writing course and a theater workshop and reading a left-to-right range of magazines from the Peking Review to U.S. News & World Report. As an editor of Terminal Island’s prison newspaper, the T.I. News, she revamped the women’s page, cutting down on inmate-romance items and installing a logo that shows a clenched-fist symbol. Under her byline of Sally Moore, She has written features and news articles, including an obituary of black singer Paul Robeson.

Moore disclaimed any regrets about her attempt to shoot the President: “I do regret I didn’t succeed, and allow the winds of change to start. I wish I had killed him. I did it to creat chaos.” Eventually, she said, she will write a book explaining her attempt: “Nobody is under any obligation to read it. But for my beliefs, I have given up my life.” Like Squeaky Fromme, Sally Moore, now 46, will be eligible for parole after serving ten years – but she expects to be in prison far longer than the minimum stretch. “That question is like a knife in my gut,” she said when asked about her parole prospects. “The won’t let me out until I’m a little old lady.”