February 25 is the birthday of a woman who is arguably the most famous lighthouse keeper in American history — Ida Lewis of Lime Rock in Newport Harbor, Rhode Island. She was born in Newport on February 25, 1842. And to celebrate Ida Lewis’s birthday, the guest in this episode of Light Hearted is Lenore Skomal, author of one of the best books ever written about Ida Lewis, The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter.
Officially, Ida Lewis is credited with 18 lives saved, but the number was possibly as high as 35; the modest Ida kept no records of her lifesaving exploits. She became the official keeper at Lime Rock in 1879 and held the position for 32 years. She became a celebrated national heroine. The former Lime Rock Lighthouse is now the Ida Lewis Yacht Club, and in 1995 a Coast Guard buoy tender was named in her honor.
Lenore Skomal is the winner of multiple awards for literature, biography, and humor, with over 30 years of professional writing experience as a journalist, columnist, author, and playwright, and 17 books published to date. You can read more about her books, plays, and other works at lenoreskomal.org.
Lenore’s book on Ida Lewis, The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter, was originally published in 2002. Booklist called it “[a] sensitive biography. . . . A remarkable story of an ordinary woman who did some extraordinary things,” and the Oakland Press wrote: “Fascinating. A lively, fast moving account to hold the reader’s interest. Spellbinding.” The book has now been optioned to be adapted into a motion picture.
Jeremy D’Entremont is the author of more than 20 books and hundreds of articles on lighthouses and maritime history. He is the president and historian for the American Lighthouse Foundation and founder of Friends of Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouses, and he has lectured and narrated cruises throughout the Northeast and in other regions. He is also the producer and host of the U.S. Lighthouse Society podcast, “Light Hearted.” He can be emailed at Jeremy@uslhs.org