Jane Fonda is an American activist and actress who has made a name for herself as a global icon in the entertainment industry. She launched her career at an early age and since made appearances in works like There Was a Little Girl, Klute, and Coming Home. On her own, she has gathered acclaim, yet, she is also the daughter of famous parents, Frances Ford Seymour and Henry Fonda. Her father was also an actor while her mother was a socialite who sadly ended her life in 1951. Apart from this, Jane is also the mother of three children, Vanessa Vadim, Troy Garity, and Mary Williams.
For a woman who has been in the public eye for many decades, the 88-year-old has never been one to shy away from any issue whether it’s her three marriages, or activism.
Who are Jane Fonda’s Parents?
Jane Fonda was born on December 21, 1937, to American actor Henry Fonda and Canadian-American socialite, Frances Ford.
She was born shortly after her parents tied the knot. Fonda’s parents were married for 15 years during which they welcomed three children including Jane and her younger brother Peter Fonda.
Henry Jaynes Fonda was born on May 16, 1905, to William Brace Fonda and Herberta in Grand Island, Nebraska. He comes from a prestigious family who are notable for founding the town of Fonda in New York. Regarding his background, Jane’s father grew up in a religious home and is said to have been baptized in an Episcopalian church but later became an agnostic.
At the age of 14, Henry Fonda experienced the lynching of a man and this had an impact on how he saw race relationships for the rest of his life.
Focusing on his career, he launched a career that lasted over 5 decades as a stage and movie actor as well as a serviceman in the US Navy during World War II. Prior, he started out as a part-time worker in his father’s print plant. At the time, he had plans of becoming a journalist and went as far as studying Journalism at the University of Minnesota but later dropped out.
By the age of 20, he shifted his sights to a career in entertainment at the Omaha Community Playhouse on the recommendation of Dodie Brando, a friend of his mother’s friend and mother of Marlon Brando. The earliest role he took was a juvenile character known as Ricky in You and I. Subsequently, he took many roles on stage and later on screen. His first big break was in The Farmer Takes a Wife.
Aside from acting, Fonda took a break from acting to serve in the US Navy during World War but later returned after leaving the Navy. Looking at his background in entertainment, Jane revealed she understood him better due to an interest they shared in acting. Unsurprisingly she took after him as an actress.
Apart from this, Henry was married five times between 1931 and 1965. Notably, his wives were involved in the entertainment industry or as socialites.
Considering that Frances Ford Seymour was born on April 4, 1908, in Brockville, Ontario, to the industrialist, Eugene Ford Seymour, and Sophie Mildred Bower, it is not surprising that she became a socialite, a person who is known for being fashionable and follows societal trends. Based on available reports, Frances’ ancestry can be traced to Jane Seymour, the wife of King Henry VIII. This explains why her daughter was named after the monarch’s wife.
A close look at her background indicates that Frances had a troubled childhood despite the privilege of wealth. This may have involved alleged incestuous abuse. Reportedly, Frances is said to have had nine abortions as a result of this.
Focusing on her work life, Frances was deeply involved in the societal trends of her time. However, her relationship with her daughter was not as glamorous. In fact, Jane described her as a manic depressive and that this affected their relationship. Also, Frances and Henry’s marriage was a troubled one.
Jane Fonda’s Mother Committed Suicide when the Actress was 12 Years Old
Having lived a glamorous life as a member of society’s noted members, Frances had her personal challenges that were not as publicized. Apparently, she had mental health issues that eventually led her to suicide on April 14, 1950, when Jane was 12 years old. According to reports, she was a patient at the Craig House, a psychiatric treatment center now known as Austen Riggs Center.
Three months prior, Henry had asked for a divorce, but it is unclear whether her stay at Craig House in Beacon or her decision to commit suicide had anything to do with the trauma of getting divorced.
Jane Fonda has Been Married Thrice
Away from her career, Fonda has also managed to have a colorful marital life. The Klute actress has tied the knot with three different men between 1965 and 2001.
She was first married to Roger Vadim, a French movie-maker. The marriage produced a daughter before they eventually divorced in January 1973.
She got married to her second husband, Tom Hayden, the American politician three days after she divorced Vadim. Their marriage was quite an eventful one as they led various protests against the Vietnam War. They were married for 17 years before they finally parted ways.
Her third marriage was with Ted Turner, the American entrepreneur and founder of CNN. Like her previous marriages, this was also highly publicized due to their careers and fame. After they divorced in May 2001, she gave snippets into the marriage by stating that it was like divorcing from the world of patriarchy. Since she is known to have quit her acting career in the 90s because of Turner, we may not be wrong to assume that he was controlling.
The 9 to 5 Actress is the Mother of Three Children
Apart from her career, Jane Fonda is also a mother of three adult children, daughters; Vanessa and Mary, and a son, Troy whom she welcomed from three relationships.
Vanessa Vadim was born on September 28, 1968, in Paris to the actress and Roger Vadim. Jane who is known for activism named her daughter after Vanessa Redgrave, a fellow actress and activist. Though she was born during her parent’s marriage, she later grew up in California after her parents parted ways.
Focusing on what she does for a living, Vanessa has taken after her parents or more accurately after her father as a filmmaker. Her credits include directing Jane Fonda in Five Acts.
Troy O’Donovan Garity
50-year-old Troy may have been influenced by his mother’s career as an actress. He was born on July 7, 1973, in Los Angeles to Jane and her second husband, Tom Hayden. His mother was three months pregnant with him when she got married to Hayden. Moving on, Troy’s parents named him after Nguyen Van Troi, a Vietnamese resistant leader, and gave him his paternal grandmother’s surname Garity so as to protect him from their fame.
Like his famous parents, Jane’s youngest child has since made a name for himself and is credited with roles in On Golden Pond, Ballers, Jane Fonda in Five Acts, and Steal This Movie!
Mary Luana Williams
Mary was born on October 13, 1967, in Oakland, California, to biological parents Randy and Mary Williams who were members of the Black Panthers and close friends of Fonda and Hayden. She started living with them as a child when her parents could no longer take care of her and with time, she became a part of their family after they quietly adopted her. Over the next couple of years, she bonded with Jane’s other children. While speaking about their relationship, Jane revealed that Mary helped her to become whole.
So far, Mary has shown concern about fighting for different causes, something that Jane and Vanessa are known for. In fact, she has appeared beside the two at different rallies.
Other Fascinating Facts About the Actress That You Should Know
1. She is a Lifelong Activist
Aside from screen roles that have garnered her recognition and acclaim, Jane is also known for her involvement in different causes. As far back as the 1960s and 70s, Jane has been an outspoken political activist against the Vietnam War and this earned her the nickname Hanoi Jane as well as the civil rights movement. Also, she supported the occupation of Alcaraz Island to bring attention to issues affecting American Indians.
One may wonder why she is active in pursuing these causes, it turns out that she had suffered abuse, rape, and sexual harassment which led to losing her job. This and her passion for equity have made her speak out for the oppressed.
Moreover, since not every member of society will always share the same opinion, the entertainer has stated that ‘Revolution is an act of love…’ and this may explain why she is passionate about her activism work including Pro-abortion, Black Panthers, and, the Feminist Movement. So far, she has founded the;
- Jane Fonda Center for Adolescent Reproductive Health
- Jane Fonda Climate Pac
2. Jane Fonda was a Subject of Surveillance
Arguably, her anti-Vietnam war stance has drawn reactions from different quotas which led to her being a subject of surveillance by the government. Based on a 2013 report, Jane’s anti-Vietnam stance made her one among 1600 Americans who were part of Project Minaret, a program run by some NSA officials.
Apparently, she was one among several activists being watched by the government.
4. She Regrets not Being More Involved in the Lives of her Children
Jane Fonda is a woman who has gained lots of experience over the years and with these come regrets about things she has not done well. One such is her commitment to being a mother and wife. Though she has apologized for some of her past statements about the Vietnam War, having regrets about how she handled personal situations hits close to home.
According to People.com, she apologized to her children after realizing that she did not give them enough time. So far, we can say that she has a close relationship with them if their public appearances are anything to go by.
5. The New York Born Actress cum Activist has Suffered her Share of Health Challenges
Reaching the age of 80 is quite a feat in the lives of many. In Jane’s case, it has come with many health challenges. One of the recent was in 2022 after she was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma. Prior, she had faced other medical challenges including a mastectomy due to a cancer scare, hip replacement, and shoulder replacement. Thankfully, Jane was later cleared and put on cancer remission.
So far, Jane revealed that she is grateful for the ability to still be working at her age.