Mary Jo Kopechne (July 26, 1940 – July 18, 1969) was an American secretary and political campaign specialist who died as a result of an accident on Chappaquiddick Island while a passenger in a car being driven by United States Senator Ted Kennedy.
Kopechne, born in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, was the only child of insurance salesman Joseph Kopechne and his wife, Gwen. She was of Polish-American heritage. The family moved to Berkeley Heights, New Jersey when she was an infant. She attended parochial schools growing up.
After graduating with a degree in business administration from Caldwell College for Women in New Jersey in 1962, Kopechne moved to Montgomery, Alabama, to teach for a year at the Mission of St. Jude as part of the Civil Rights Movement. In 1963, she moved to Washington, D.C., to work as secretary to Florida Senator George Smathers. Kopechne joined New York Senator Robert F. Kennedy's secretarial staff following his election in 1964. There she worked as a secretary to the senator's speechwriters and as a legal secretary to one of his legal advisers. Kopechne was a loyal and tireless worker for Robert Kennedy, once in March 1967 staying up all night at his Hickory Hill home to type a major speech against the Vietnam War as the senator and his aides such as Ted Sorenson made last-minute changes to it.