World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Mary Jo Kopechne

Mary Jo Kopechne
1962 Swim Team yearbook portrait of Kopechne
Born Mary Jo Kopechne
(1940-07-26)July 26, 1940
Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania
Died July 18, 1969(1969-07-18) (aged 28)
Chappaquiddick Island, Massachusetts
Nationality American
Ethnicity Polish-American
Alma mater Caldwell College
Occupation Teacher, secretary, and political campaign specialist
Known for Chappaquiddick incident
Political party Democratic
Religion Roman Catholic
Parent(s) Joseph and Gwen Kopechne

Mary Jo Kopechne (; July 26, 1940 – July 18, 1969) was an American teacher, secretary, and political campaign specialist who died in a car accident at Chappaquiddick Island on July 18, 1969, while a passenger in a car being driven by longtime U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy.


  • Early life and education 1
  • Career 2
  • Death 3
  • Aftermath 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6

Early life and education

Kopechne was born in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.[1] Her father, Joseph Kopechne, was an insurance salesman, and her mother, Gwen (née Jennings), was a homemaker.[1][2] Kopechne was of part Polish heritage.[3]

When Kopechne was an infant, the family moved to Berkeley Heights, New Jersey.[1][4] She attended parochial schools growing up.[5] After graduating with a degree in business administration from Caldwell College for Women in 1962,[1][6] Kopechne moved to Montgomery, Alabama, to teach for a year at the Mission of St. Jude,[1] an activity that was part of the Civil Rights Movement.[7]


By 1963, Kopechne relocated to

  • FBI files on Mary Jo Kopechne and Chappaquiddick
  • Mary Jo Kopechne at Find a Grave

External links

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b c d e f g
  4. ^
  5. ^ a b c d
  6. ^ a b c
  7. ^ a b
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k
  9. ^ Kappel, Chappaquiddick Revealed, p. 189.
  10. ^ a b c
  11. ^ a b c d Damore, Senatorial Privilege, pp. 118–119.
  12. ^ a b
  13. ^ a b
  14. ^ Damore, Senatorial Privilege, p. 154.
  15. ^ a b
  16. ^ Clymer, Edward M. Kennedy: A Biography, p. 150.
  17. ^ a b
  18. ^
  19. ^ a b Clymer, Edward M. Kennedy: A Biography, pp. 152–154.
  20. ^
  21. ^


The Chappaquiddick incident and Kopechne's death became the topic of at least 15 books, as well as a fictionalized treatment by Joyce Carol Oates. Questions remained about Kennedy's timeline of events that night, specifically his actions following the incident.[19] The quality of the investigation has been scrutinized, particularly whether official deference was given to a powerful and influential politician and his family.[19] The events surrounding Kopechne's death damaged Kennedy's reputation and are regarded as a major reason that he was never able to mount a successful campaign for President of the United States.[20] Kennedy expressed remorse over his role in her death in his posthumously-published memoir, True Compass.[21]

A week after the incident, Kennedy pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of an accident after causing injury. He received a two-month suspended sentence.[8] On a national television broadcast that night, Kennedy said that he had not been driving "under the influence of liquor" nor had he ever had a "private relationship" with Kopechne.[18] Massachusetts officials pressed for weeks to have Kopechne's body exhumed for an autopsy, but in December 1969 a Pennsylvania judge sided with the parents' request not to disturb her burial site.[17]


A private funeral for Kopechne was held on July 22, 1969, at St. Vincent's Roman Catholic Church in Plymouth, Pennsylvania.[15][16] It was attended by Kennedy, his wife Joan, his sister-in-law Ethel, and hundreds of onlookers.[15] She is buried in Larksville, Pennsylvania,[17] in the parish cemetery on the side of Larksville Mountain.

Kennedy failed to report the incident to the authorities until the car and Kopechne's body were discovered the next morning.[8] Kopechne's parents said that they learned of their daughter's death from Kennedy himself,[1] before he informed authorities of his involvement.[6] However, they learned Kennedy had been the driver from wire press releases some time later.[6]

On July 18, 1969, Kopechne attended a party on Chappaquiddick Island, off the coast of Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts. The celebration was in honor of the dedicated work of the Boiler Room Girls, and was the fourth such reunion of the Robert F. Kennedy campaign workers.[14] Robert's brother Ted Kennedy was there, whom Kopechne did not know well.[10] Kopechne reportedly left the party at 11:15 p.m. with Ted, after he — according to his own account — offered to drive her to catch the last ferry back to Edgartown, where she was staying.[8] She did not tell her close friends at the party that she was leaving, and she left her purse and keys behind.[8] Kennedy drove the 1967 Oldsmobile Delmont 88 off a narrow, unlit bridge, which was without guardrails and was not on the route to Edgartown.[8] The Oldsmobile landed in Poucha Pond and overturned in the water; Kennedy extricated himself from the vehicle and survived, but Kopechne did not.[8]


[13][12][3] with a demure, serious, "convent school" demeanor, rarely drank much, and had no reputation for extramarital activities with men.Roman Catholic She was a devout [3].Carl Yastrzemski and of fellow Polish-American Boston Red Sox She was a fan of the [1] Kopechne was devastated emotionally by the

During the 1968 U.S. presidential election, Kopechne helped with the wording of Kennedy's speech of March 1968 announcing his presidential candidacy.[5] During his campaign, she worked as one of the "Boiler Room Girls". This was an affectionate nickname given to six young women whose office area was in a hot, loud, windowless location in Kennedy's Washington campaign headquarters.[3][5][8][11] They were vital in tracking and compiling data and intelligence on how Democratic delegates from various states were intending to vote; Kopechne's responsibilities included Pennsylvania.[8][11] Kopechne and the other staffers were knowledgeable politically,[11] and were chosen for their ability to work skillfully for long, hectic hours on sensitive matters.[3] They talked daily with field managers and also helped distribute policy statements to strategic newspapers.[11] She has been described as hero-worshiping the senator.[10]

[10].catcher team, playing softball She was also an enthusiastic participant on the Kennedy office [9][8][5] made last-minute changes to it.Ted Sorenson, while the senator and his aides such as Vietnam War home to type a major speech against the Hickory Hill Kopechne was a loyal worker. Once, during March 1967, she stayed up all night at Kennedy's [1] For that office she worked as a secretary to the senator's speechwriters and as a legal secretary to one of his legal advisers.[1]'s secretarial staff following his election in November 1964.Robert F. Kennedy Senator New York She joined [1]

This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.