“No one suspects women,” a former radical once told me, describing how she once stashed explosives in a baby carriage that she intended to set off outside the home of a target. As it turned out, her would-be victim fled before she could carry out her mission, but she wanted me to understand something Capitol security officials may have failed to grasp ahead of Jan. 6: The hand that rocks the cradle can also detonate a bomb.
With talk of another far-right plot to attack the Capitol in the works, intelligence experts can no longer underestimate the deadly power of women. A study by the Council on Foreign Relations found that radicalized American women are as likely to the same success rates as men, though they’re arrested and convicted far less.
Take Riley Williams, the 22-year-old who boasted of stealing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s laptop but was released shortly after her arrest. A newly released video, uncovered by Bellingcat, debunks her mother’s allegation that Williams was just caught up in the chaos of the day and didn’t intend any harm. In the clip, the self-proclaimed white nationalist, sporting various Nazi symbols including one worn by the Christchurch, New Zealand, shooter, does a Heil Hitler salute. Bathed in a negative blue filter that makes her eyes flash white, there’s something uniquely creepy about Williams, but she’s hardly unique. Female extremism is the new normal. Now that 33 women have been arrested in connection with the Capitol insurrection—more than in any other domestic terrorist attack—it’s time to reckon with an untold history of radical female violence.