Picture credit: Gretchen Farwell, used by Journal Sentinel

Former UW–Madison Librarian, Gretchen Farwell, was a 20-year-old student at St. Olaf when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated on November 23, 1963. Deeply affected by the President’s death, she wrote a letter to his wife, Jackie Kennedy Onassis, as did many other Americans at the time. Four years ago, Farwell’s letter was selected out of these many for a book titled Letters to Jackie: Condolences from a Grieving Nation by Ellen Fitzpatrick. This year, writer-director Bill Couturié used her letter in his new documentary, Letters to Jackie: Remembering President Kennedy.

In an article about the letter written by Jim Stingl in the Journal Sentinel, Couturié said that the reason Farwell’s letter was chosen out of so many was because “[the letter] so perfectly embodied college students’ attitude toward JFK and the Cold War. Young people identified with Kennedy’s relative youth and shared his concerns about the perils of the Cold War.” Doug Moe, of the Wisconsin State Journal, also recently wrote an article about Gretchen Farwell and her letter. You can read his article here.

Gretchen Farwell, movie opening
Gretchen Farwell, movie opening

Gretchen Farwell was a great librarian here at UW—Madison for many years. Former coworkers reported her efforts during a 2-year project in 1987 for Central Technical Services of Memorial Library to implement NOTIS, which was the circulation and cataloging system in use before our current Voyager. Farwell also worked at the Steenbock Library.

The documentary, Letters to Jackie, will be shown tomorrow, October 15th at 7pm at the Point Cinema in Madison. Tickets can be bought online on Point Cinema’s website. Gretchen Farwell will be at the showing at 6pm and stay after the movie to visit with former colleagues and friends. The film has received glowing reviews from the Los Angeles Times as one of the year’s finest overall films.




At a Glance

What: Documentary, Letters to Jackie, featuring a letter from retired UW–Madison librarian

Where: Marcus Point Cinemas, Madison, WI (buy tickets here)

When: October 15 at 7pm