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Kate Coleman, Who Documented the Bay Area Counterculture, Dies at 81

Kate Coleman, an iconoclastic Bay Area journalist who began her career as a left-wing radical, writing about the patriarchy, politics and polyamory, then made enemies among her erstwhile comrades when her reporting cast a harsh light on the Black Panthers and the environmental movement, died on Tuesday in Oakland, Calif. She was 81.

Carol Pogash, a close friend, said her death, in a memory-care facility, was caused by complications of dementia.

For decades Ms. Coleman operated at the center of a fervid community of journalists and activists in and around Berkeley. Like her, most of them had attended the University of California in the 1960s, helping to define the campus as a hotbed of political and social activism.

Her subsequent writing career, most of it as a freelancer for anti-establishment publications like Ramparts and The Berkeley Barb as well as national outlets like Newsweek and The Los Angeles Times, tracked the transit of the American left through its many phases, from early idealism through violent extremism to late-stage disenchantment.

Like Eve Babitz and Joan Didion, she positioned herself as a young female writer who was both immersed in the moment and able to stand outside it, casting a gimlet eye on the ironies and excesses of America’s “left coast.”

Ms. Coleman, in a dark skirt, in Sproul Plaza in Berkeley, Calif., in 1965. As a Berkeley undergraduate, she was among hundreds of students arrested in 1964 for occupying Sproul Hall, a campus administration building.Credit…via Coleman Family

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