URI alumna to screen Ida Lewis documentary

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Charlestown resident’s film on Newport legend to be shown at URI April 17

KINGSTON, R.I. – April 15, 2014 – University of Rhode Island alumna Marian Gagnon has completed a 45-minute documentary film, America’s Forgotten Heroine: Ida Lewis, Keeper of the Light. A sneak peek screening will be held Thursday, April 17 at 5:30 p.m. in Swan Hall, 60 Upper College Road, Kingston. A reception will follow at roughly 6:30 p.m. in Swan atrium. The URI screening and reception are free and open to the public.


The film will officially premiere Friday, May 30 at 8 p.m. at the Casino Theater in Newport.

Gagnon, who earned her bachelor’s degree in journalism from URI, researched, wrote, directed and produced this film, collaborating with two other URI alumni – animator Chris Robadue, an information services technician at URI’s Memorial Union, and scholar and composer Enrico Garzilli. Gagnon is a resident of Charlestown and a professor in the College of Arts & Sciences at Johnson & Wales University.

Gagnon’s historical documentary focuses on Lewis’ intriguing life story, her myriad decisions, which led to a life of fame and isolation, her unexpected celebrity in Newport as well as across the country, and the impact she inadvertently had on the early women’s rights movement. It provides an intimate portrayal of Lewis’ life from age 15 to 69 (from 1857 to 1911) and the passion and moral fiber she brought to her work as a lighthouse keeper and unlikely heroine.


As John Williams Haley, author of The Rhode Island Historian wrote in 1939: “…of all the Rhode Island women who have achieved fame in one way or another…and there have been many…none attained the world renown of a modest little woman who was born and lived most of her life in Newport. In fact, it would hardly be exaggeration to say that she was more famous, particularly during the latter half of her life, than any American woman of the past or present.”


While this statement may very well stand today, Lewis’ story has largely been forgotten. Gagnon’s goal with this film is to renew the “national memory” of Ida Lewis as an American heroine not only in her hometown of Newport and throughout Rhode Island, but across the United States.