It came as a surprise to many people that Jane Fonda has an adopted African-American daughter who was raised in Oakland during the 70’s in a family that belonged to the Black Panthers. Mary Williams’ father was in prison most of her life, her older sister was a prostitute and her mother struggled to raise six children alone. When Mary was thirteen, she was invited to spend the summer at the Laurel Springs Children’s camp run by Jane Fonda and her then husband, Tom Hayden. Mary flourished at the camp and started to confide in Jane about her difficult life at home. After Mary suffered a nightmare assault, Jane provided care and therapy and invited her to come live with her family. Jane was a wonderful mother who helped with homework, and offered inspiration and encouragement.
Mary’s life since has been one of adventure and opportunity. It also involved returning to Oakland to reconnect with her biological family. The Lost Daughter: A Memoir is a chronicle of her journey back in time, an exploration of fractured family bonds, and a moving epic of self-discovery.