Skip to main content

Jane Fonda papers

Identifier: SSC-MS-00477

Scope and Contents

The Jane Fonda papers relate to both her personal and professional life.

The first series contains biographical information about Fonda's personal life, as well as that of her family members. Of note is Fonda's FBI file.

The second series contains correspondence pertaining to both Jane Fonda's personal, and professional, life. Subjects include family members of Fonda, various friends and celebrities, as well as large sections of fan mail, and correspondence with U.S. Veterans.

The third series contains materials related to Fonda's professional life. This includes acting, conferences and festivals, interviews, and the philanthropic organizations Fonda has been involved with.

The fourth series relates to published and unpublished writings by Fonda. Of note are the annotated drafts of Fonda's auto-biography, My Life So Far. Many of the drafts are annotated (typed and handwritten) by Fonda, members of her family (her half-sister Frances (Pan) de Villers Brokaw Corrias), her ex-husbands Tom Hayden and Ted Turner, and other friends. Some drafts were reused for a secondary printing, and therefore there is text and annotations on both recto and verso. Early drafts of chapters are also found in various folders in the Research sub-series of My Life So Far, "Tom Era" being a good example.

The fifth series includes photographs and negatives related to Fonda's adolescent life, professional life, workout series, and family.

The sixth series contains audiovisual materials of a wide variety of formats and topics. These materials document three aspects of Fonda's life: her political activism, including that related to her anti-Vietnam War efforts; the Jane Fonda Workout series; and interviews and television appearances, featuring Jane Fonda and/or her third husband, Ted Turner. The Vietnam-era audiovisual materials are of particular historical value. Of note are the digitized film and clips of the 1974 documentary, Introduction to the Enemy. Many of the audiovisual materials related to the Jane Fonda Workout series are on loan to Fonda.

The seventh series contains memorabilia, including a cloth hat with a patch that states "Veteran of the 60's" and has multiple political buttons attached.

Later additions to the papers that were added after they were processed in 2017 make up the additional accessions.

Dates of Materials

  • Creation: 1946 - 2019


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for use without restriction beyond the standard terms and conditions of Smith College Special Collections.

Conditions Governing Use

To the extent that she owns copyright, Jane Fonda has assigned the copyright in her works to Smith College; however, copyright in other items in this collection may be held by their respective creators. For reproductions of materials that are governed by fair use as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission to cite or publish is required. For instances which may regard materials in the collection not created by Jane Fonda, researchers are responsible for determining who may hold materials' copyrights and obtaining approval from them. Researchers do not need anything further from Smith College Special Collections to move forward with their use.

Biographical Note

Jane Seymour Fonda was born in New York, New York, on December 21, 1937 to actor Henry Fonda (1905-1982) and socialite Frances Seymour Brokaw (1908-1950). She has one brother, Peter Fonda (1940- ). She received her primary and secondary education at the Brentwood Town and Country School in Los Angeles, CA; the Greenwich Academy in Greenwich, CT; and the Emma Willard School in Troy, NY. She attended Vassar College from 1955-1957, through her sophomore year.

Fonda travelled to France in the summer of 1957, and enrolled in the art school Académie de la Grand Chaumiére in the fall. She lived in Paris until the winter of 1957, when her father insisted that she return home to New York City. In the summer of 1958, Henry Fonda moved the family to a house on the Santa Monica beach in Los Angeles where Jane befriended Susan Strasberg, daughter of actor, acting teacher, and director, Lee Strasberg. Strasberg accepted Jane into his fall 1958 private Method Acting classes in New York City. Fonda worked for the Ford Modeling Agency to finance her lessons. In 1959, Fonda made her Broadway debut in There Was a Little Girl, earning her the New York Drama Critics' Circle award for "the most promising actress of the year for drama," and a Tony nomination for Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Play. Her first film role was inTall Story (1960). Fonda opened in her second Broadway play,Invitation to a March, in the fall of 1960.

Between 1960 and 1964, Jane Fonda made six movies including Period of Adjustment (1962), Walk on the Wild Side (1962), The Chapman Report (1962), In the Cool of the Day (1963), Sunday in New York (1963), and Les Félins (1964). Fonda was approached by the film director Roger Vadim (1928-2000) in 1963 to film a remake ofLa Ronde, but dismissed the offer. Later, Fonda and Vadim officially met at her birthday party in December 1963 and entered into a relationship. Despite Fonda's initial objection, the pair filmed La Ronde in 1964. Fonda and Vadim lived together in France co-parenting Vadim's two children Nathalie and Christian with their mothers, Annette Stroyberg and Catherine Deneuve, respectively. Fonda travelled between California, New York, and France for work, ultimately purchasing a home in France in 1965 before her marriage to Roger Vadim in August 1965.

Fonda became attune to global and American social and political issues. While filming Hurry Sundown (1967) in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Fonda began to understand both overt and nuanced racial disparities, as well as the fight for Civil Rights not only in the South and in the United States on the whole. Her next two films, Barbarella (1968) and Tre Passi Nel Delirio (Historia Extraordinarias/Spirits of the Dead) (1968), filmed with Vadim in Rome, also sparked a heightened awareness of women’s sexual exploitation, most notably Barbarella. Fonda was also influenced by Vadim and friends’ vehement opposition to American action in Vietnam and the anti-Vietnam War movement in France.

In 1968, Fonda and Vadim’s daughter, Vanessa Vadim (1968- ) was born. They separated a year later.

Jane Fonda spent much of 1970 touring the U.S., speaking out against the Vietnam War, and in support of groups representing disenfranchised communities, such as the American Indian Movement and the Black Panther Party. These activities earned Fonda a place on the Nixon administration's "enemies list," and eventually resulted in a 22,000 page FBI file.

After her first cross-country tour, Fonda alternated living between Los Angeles, California and New York City before settling in L.A. In L.A., Fonda became friends with actor and activist Donald Sutherland. That same year, Fonda, Sutherland, and activist and physician Howard Levy created "an alternative to Bob Hope's traditional pro-war entertainment," a satirical anti-war revue, entitled FTA ('Free the Army' or Fuck the Army'). FTA was "political vaudeville with an antiwar, pro-soldier theme…intended not only to support the soldiers' antiwar sentiments but to call attention to the way soldiers were dehumanized in the military." A documentary about the tour directed by Francine Parker, titled F.T.A (1972), was picked up for film distribution by American International.

In May 1972 Fonda received an invitation from the Vietnamese Committee for Solidarity with the American People, the Vietnamese cultural Association, and the Vietnam Film Artists Association to make a two week trip to Hanoi. It was on this trip that Fonda provoked major controversy by making several broadcasts over Radio Hanoi in which she urged American airmen to stop bombing the North. She met with groups of American prisoners of war (POWs), took photographs and film evidence of the American-created damage to the system of Vietnamese dikes, and also met with various Vietnamese citizens and soldiers. It was on this trip that Fonda was photographed sitting on a North Vietnamese anti-aircraft gun site. This incident was the origin of the epithet 'Hanoi Jane.' Following this, she returned to New York and dealt with the repercussions of her travel: accusation of treason, a call to boycott Fonda's films, and other political, professional, and societal backlash.

Fonda met activist Tom Hayden (1939-2016) in early 1972, and entered a relationship with him shortly thereafter. The two worked to create a national speaking tour, the Indochina Peace Campaign (IPC), for the fall of 1972. Jane officially divorced Roger Vadim in January 1973 in order to marry Hayden. They had one son together, Troy Garity (1973- ). Fonda's marriage to Tom Hayden in 1973 further galvanized her politically and together they engaged in grassroots organizing on such issues as increased community services, migrant workers' rights, and solar energy development; they founded the Campaign for Economic Democracy (CED), to "democratize" U.S. corporate culture; and organized national rallies in their campaigns against "unbridled corporate power" and nuclear energy.

Fonda embarked on her second U.S. tour in 1973 with Tom Hayden and Troy, and shortly after that, travelled again to North Vietnam. This second trip was to facilitate the creation of a documentary, Introduction to the Enemy (1974), "aimed at showing the human side of Vietnam, a view of the people's lives and stories very few Americans would otherwise ever see or hear." Haskell Wexler, an American cinematographer, filmed and co-directed the documentary with both Fonda and Hayden.

Fonda created her own production company, IPC Films, with friend Bruce Gilbert in the late 1970s. IPC Films produced Introduction to the Enemy (1974), The China Syndrome (1979), 9 to 5 (1980), Rollover, and On Golden Pond (both 1981). The China Syndrome and On Golden Pond were both nominated for Academy Awards.

In 1977, Hayden and Fonda bought land north of Santa Barbara, California, to create a performing arts summer camp for children called Laurel Springs. The camp ran for 14 years, until 1991, and used the performing arts to build self-esteem and cooperation among children of all races and socio-economic backgrounds. It was here that Fonda met Mary Luana (Lulu) Williams (1967- ), a child of Black Panther Party members, with whom Fonda fostered a mother-daughter relationship. After getting to know Williams over the course of three summers, Fonda adopted her in 1982, at the age of 16.

In 1979, Fonda opened a fitness workout studio in Beverly Hills, California. Its success led to the establishment of other such studios in California as well as the creation of five books, twelve audio programs, and twenty-three videotapes, including Jane Fonda's Workout Book (1981), Jane Fonda's Workout Book for Pregnancy, Birth and Recovery (1982), and Women Coming of Age (1984) with Julia Lafonda. The Jane Fonda Workout (1982) video remains the top-grossing fitness video of all time. In researching material for The Workout, Fonda addressed her long battle with bulimia and food addiction. In 2011, Jane Fonda created five new tapes for seniors, and re-released five of the most requested titles from the Original Workout series on DVD and in digital format in 2015.

Fonda and Tom Hayden separated in 1988 and divorced in 1990. Shortly after, Fonda met broadcasting mogul Ted Turner (1938- ) and also decided to retire from acting. She states, "For all intents and purposes, I had decided to stop acting and producing by the time I met Ted, but once I committed to the relationship, it became a done deal." The two married on Fonda's 54th birthday, December 21, 1991 and divorced in 2001.

During her time away from acting, Fonda’s work in community service and philanthropy became more pronounced. In 1995, Fonda founded the Georgia Campaign for Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention (G-CAPP) to work to reduce the high rates of adolescent pregnancy in Georgia through community and youth development, sustainable economic development, and legislative advocacy. As a part of this work, Fonda studied the effects of sexual violence on girls and boys. In 2012, the G-CAPP Board changed the name of the group to the Georgia Campaign for Adolescent Power and Potential.

Using Laurel Springs as a model, Fonda also co-founded the Performing Arts Program for Youth (PAPY) in Atlanta in the early 1990s. Other organizations in which Jane Fonda has been involved include Goodwill Ambassador to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Fonda, Inc., the Turner Foundation, the Women's Media Center (WMC), the Carter Center, Advocates for Youth, The Village Foundation of the National Task Force on African-American Men and Boys, Girls, Inc., and the Elton John AIDS Foundation.

After fifteen years in retirement, Fonda returned to acting in 2005 with the film Monster-In-Law, and has continued to appear in television and film alike since that time. She has appeared on Broadway in 33 Variations (2009), and on television in The Simpsons (2014), Grace and Frankie (2015- ), and The Newsroom (2012-2014).


72.51 linear feet (98 boxes, 229 film reels)

Language of Materials



Jane Fonda is an actor, activist, philanthropist and pop culture figure. Her family’s notoriety and her work on Broadway led her to pursue an acting career in film. Fonda gained positive and negative criticism due to her Vietnam War-era activism and anti-war stance. The collection documents Fonda’s personal and professional life, including her numerous philanthropic endeavors. It includes digitized clips of the 1974 documentary, Introduction to the Enemy, correspondence from fans and Vietnam veterans, annotated drafts of writings and Fonda’s FBI file.


The collection is organized in seven series based on type of content.

  • Series 1. Biographical Materias
  • Series 2. Correspondence
  • Series 3. Professional activities
  • Series 4. Writings
  • Series 5. Photographs
  • Series 6. Audiovisual materials
  • Series 7. Memorabilia
Later additions to the papers that were added after they were processed in 2017 make up the additional accessions.

Some of the materials in this collection do not have dates on them, but approximate dates have been assigned in the finding aid as a tool to aid in searching. These dates are based on known project dates and the dates of related nearby materials.


This collection has been added to over time in multiple "accessions." An accession is a group of materials received from the same source at approximately the same time.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

As a preservation measure, researchers must use digital copies of audiovisual materials in this collection. Please consult with Special Collections staff to request the creation of and access to digital copies.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

This collection was donated by Fonda and her staff in 18 transfers from 2003 to 2020.


Appraisal conducted in accordance with the guidelines and policies of the Sophia Smith Collection. Duplicates, material of little evidential or information value, and documents with sensitive information have been returned to Jane Fonda. Correspondence related to the Broadway play, 33 Variations, came to the Sophia Smith Collection with water damage. These letters have been photocopied and the originals have been returned to Jane Fonda. Audiovisual materials related to the Jane Fonda Workout Series were loaned to Jane Fonda in 2010 for digital reproduction. Two ruined film splices from Introduction to the Enemywere discarded by the digitization vendor.

Existence and Location of Copies

Select material in Series VI: Audiovisual materials has been digitized and is linked at the file level in this finding aid.

Processing Information

Processed by Amanda Ferrara, 2017.

Processing Information

Between September 2022 and February 2023, Smith College Special Collections renumbered many boxes to eliminate duplicate numbers within collections in order to improve researcher experience. A full crosswalk of old to new numbers is available.

Finding Aid to the Jane Fonda papers
Legacy Finding Aid (Updated)
Amanda Ferrara,Venice Teeter, and Madison White
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Revision Statements

  • 2017-07-26T17:48:24-04:00: This record was migrated from InMagic DB Textworks to ArchivesSpace.
  • 2018: Edits and addition of contents list
  • 2019-04-10: Physical locations of related materials in the AV series which had been published were removed, moved related materials from instances to related materials notes within that series
  • 2020-06-22: Added new accessions
  • 2021-01-25: Fixed reel numbering
  • 2021-10-01: Removed 5 non-existent Introduction to the Enemy clips and matched 27 others to correct reels

Repository Details

Part of the Sophia Smith Collection of Women's History Repository

Neilson Library
7 Neilson Drive
Northampton MA 01063