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Jane Fonda donates papers to Smith College

Amanda Ferrara, an archive associate at Smith College, said she spoke with Fonda once by phone. “She talks about having many acts in her life.”Barry Chin/Globe Staff

NORTHAMPTON — There’s a 2014 note from Dolly Parton, who wants to know if Jane Fonda has read the supermarket tabloid story “where you hate me and I hate you.”

“Well, I still love you and hope you feel the same,” Parton wrote.

Former House speaker Newt Gingrich sent the Hollywood icon a letter 19 years ago, opening the two-page typewritten missive with the words: “Like you, I never quite expected to be exchanging ideas with someone whom I have always seen as part of the other team.”

The letters are among more than 130 boxes that Fonda, 80, has donated to Smith College, providing the women’s college in Northampton with archives covering her acting career, activism, fitness empire, and philanthropy.


The records, including Fonda’s 22,000-page FBI file, annotated drafts of her 2005 autobiography, “My Life So Far,” and correspondence with veterans, fans, celebrities, and others, remained out of sight until late June when Smith announced the materials were open to the public through the college’s Sophia Smith Collection.

“We’re thrilled to have it,” said Beth Myers, director of special collections at Smith. “The Sophia Smith Collection has a focus on women fighting for equality and justice on behalf of women and gender minorities. Jane’s work around women and feminist issues and her broader activist work makes her a natural fit.”

Fonda began donating materials to Smith in 2003. Among the first items the college received were 16-millimeter film reels of B-roll and finished copies of “Introduction to the Enemy,” the 1974 documentary she made in Vietnam with her then-husband Tom Hayden. The college paid for the film to be digitized, Myers said.

In a statement, Fonda said she was pleased to have her papers join the collection, which includes the archives of her friend, Gloria Steinem, the groundbreaking feminist who graduated from Smith in 1956, suffragist Susan B. Anthony, and the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.


“History sometimes doesn’t do a good job of remembering or sharing women’s stories,” Fonda said. “The Sophia Smith Collection is one of the world’s best collections of women’s histories — dedicated to making the stories of women from all walks of life accessible to scholars and the general public.”

A publicist said Fonda wasn’t available for further comment.

Patricia Bosworth, the author of a 2011 biography of Fonda, said Fonda saves everything, and probably donated her papers to show the public what she has accomplished as an activist.

“She’s obsessed with her life, as well she should be,” Bosworth said. “She’s utterly fascinating.”

Amanda Ferrara, an archive associate at the college, said she was hired in 2016 to process papers belonging to Fonda and Diane “Dee” Mosbacher, a documentary filmmaker and psychiatrist.

Ferrara, 26, said she spoke with Fonda once by phone and also read her autobiography and Bosworth’s book while processing the papers.

“She talks about having many acts in her life,” said Ferrara. “I think she’s quite special because she keeps changing and morphing.”

Fonda hasn’t visited the campus, but Myers said she is welcome to visit. The college expects Fonda to send more materials in the future, she said.

Her FBI file includes a communication dated March 12, 1971, from then-director J. Edgar Hoover instructing the Los Angeles bureau to intensify its investigation of Fonda, describing her support of “New Left” and black extremist groups as “clearly contrary to internal security interests of US.”


“Subject is well-known motion picture actress who has become extremely active in antiwar and other dissident anti-establishment groups,” the document said. “Presently, Department of Justice is considering initiating prosecutive action as result of subject’s possible seditious comments during speeches urging use of guns to overthrow established order.”

Some materials reflect the angry backlash from Fonda’s 1972 trip to North Vietnam when she was photographed sitting on a antiaircraft gun site.

“There are few things I have strong visceral reactions to, but Jane Fonda’s participation in what I believe to be blatant treason is one of them,” reads one e-mail in the collection.

Some of the more recent materials include Fonda’s advocacy work with Lily Tomlin in support of raising the minimum wage in Michigan. Fonda and Tomlin appear together in the Netflix comedy series “Grace and Frankie.’’

There is also memorabilia, including a cloth hat covered in political buttons, a certificate of nomination for the best actress Academy Award for Fonda’s role in the 1977 drama “Julia,” and a flattened can featuring a drawing of Fonda.

Her correspondence includes notes and e-mails from Steinem, Oprah Winfrey, and Lindsay Lohan, who once wrote to Fonda to apologize for showing up late to a set.

There’s also correspondence with playwright Eve Ensler, who wrote “The Vagina Monologues.”

In a May 2003 e-mail, Fonda lends her support to Ensler, who is struggling with turning 50. Years before she gave a well-known TED Talk about life’s “third act,” Fonda urged Ensler not to despair.


“Fifty is really hard. The worst ‘marker’ to deal with in some ways because you’re still in the second act and it’s betwixt and between.”

Later in the e-mail, Fonda tells Ensler she’s a revolutionary and an artist, who is challenging people in power.

She writes: “What more can a person do, and you’re not even in your third act yet for christ sake.”

Laura Crimaldi can be reached at laura.crimaldi@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @lauracrimaldi.