America's Forgotten Heroine: Ida Lewis, Keeper of the Light
Director: Marian Gagnon
Videographer/Editor: Jim Karpeichik
America's Forgotten Heroine tells the dramatic - and forgotten - story of this country's most famous lighthouse keeper and one of the bravest women in American maritime history. Ida Zoradia Lewis lived and died while tending the light on a small outcropping of lime rock in Newport (R.I.) Harbor from 1857 to 1911, saving the lives of more than 25 people - and a prize sheep - from certain peril.
Told for the first time on film, this historical documentary provides an intimate portrayal of Ida Lewis from age 15 to 69. It resurrects her story of both fame and isolation, the impact she inadvertently had on the early women's rights movement, and the passion and moral fiber she intrinsically brought to her work as a lighthouse keeper and unlikely heroine.
America's Forgotten Heroine tells the dramatic - and forgotten - story of this country's most famous lighthouse keeper and one of the bravest women in American maritime history.
This film, produced in high-definition, brings to life the extraordinary story of Ida Zoradia Lewis, America’s most famous lighthouse keeper. Ida took over the duties at Lime Rock Lighthouse in Newport, R.I. at the age of 15 when her father suffered a stroke in the 1850s.
Not only did she tend the light for more than 50 years, but she single-handedly saved 18 people (there is speculation she likely saved upwards of 30 lives), many of them soldiers making their way across the bay from Fort Adams to the watering holes in Newport. This 103-pound woman was a darling of Civil War heroes and a celebrity in her own right. After receiving national publicity for one of her daring rescues – including a front-page illustration and story in Harper’s Weekly – tens of thousands of people flocked to meet her on the island.
Hailed as the “bravest woman in America,” Ida Lewis received countless medals and awards, including the “Life Saving Medal of the First Class” conferred upon her by the U.S. Government saying her rescues demonstrated “unquestionable nerve, presence of mind, and dashing courage.”
But Ida’s story is not without conflict and personal suffering, all of which she endured for the sake of her true love – the Lime Rock Lighthouse. Despite her age, gender, class, and lack of education, Ida Lewis managed to transcend the implicit and overwhelming bias and discrimination against women and fulfill her true potential and her life’s work.
Yes, the “light” was her "child," but, more importantly, despite society’s pressures and expectations, she gave herself permission to be the strong, independent, fearless woman of which she knew she was capable.
The film premiered in Newport in May 2014 at the Newport Tennis Hall of Fame -- to a standing-room-only crowd -- and was later selected by the R.I. International Film Festival two months later. It also won several awards and was nominated for a New England Emmy. The doc routinely airs on R.I. PBS.