jean taynton

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Teacher (1939)

Relationship Timeline Of jean taynton

Ex-husband : John Lithgow
Jean Jaynton married John Lithgow in 1966 and divorced in 1980.

Jean Taynton is a retired teacher who is famous for being the first wife of Emmy-winning actor John Lithgow. The retired American teacher and former celebrity spouse is the mother of John's first child, Ian Lithgow.

Her marriage with John lasted a little more than a decade.  Before the divorce, Jean single-handily supported the acting aspirations of her then-husband, John. She was the breadwinner of their small family when John spent his first years looking for work as an actor.

Parents Details 

Jean's parents are Jesse Taynton and Mary Taynton. Her parents were residents of Haverford, Delaware, Pennsylvania. Both of her parents follow Christianity as their religion. 

Her father, Jesse, was a bass player for the Philidelphia Orchestra and was friends with the grammy-winning Maestro Eugene Ormandy. He would later work as the librarian for the Orchestra.

Early Life

Jean was born in 1939 as the daughter of Jesse Taynton. She was raised alongside her twin sister, Carole Taynton, by her parents. She was born into a Christian family and followed Christianity early on. 

Oberlin College, where Jean Taynton studied. (Source: Oberlin college)

It is known that she was a student at Oberlin College in Ohio. She received teacher training and focused more on special needs children, even in the 1960s.

Has A Twin Sister, Carole Taynton

As mentioned above, Jean has a twin sister named Carole, with whom she finished high school at Oberlin College. Her sister Carole went on to get both B.A. and M.A. degrees in Art History. After completing her B.A., she worked as a Curatorial Assistant at the Oberlin Museum. 

At the same time, she pursued her Master's. She was an instructor for the Toledo Museum of Art in the state of Ohio and later took a position as a lecturer at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. In Boston, she also worked as a Music Critic for the Boston Globe Newspaper.

Relationship With John Lithgow

The young teacher Jean met her former spouse at a play organized by Tim Mayer at Highfield Gardens. He would play her love interest, and the pair began dating. At the time, Jean was twenty-four, and John was nineteen.

They dated for a year before marrying in a Sunday ceremony in a church in Philadelphia in 1966. Their parents and about fifty guests attended the wedding. 

Net Worth Of John Lithgow

Jean Taynton is a retired teacher who specializes in special needs education. A retired teacher gets a pension, which may be her income source. Not much is known about her net worth, but her ex-husband John Lithgow is estimated to be worth about $50 million.

John Lithgow, the ex-husband of Jean Taynton
John Lithgow, the ex-husband of Jean Taynton (Source: Deadline)

As she supported her husband in his career and hard times, she may have received spousal support or alimony. She also had primary custody of their son after the divorce.

Jean Supported Her Ex-husband's Acting Aspirations From The Start

John Lithgow had acting aspirations from the very start, and most of the marriage was spent traveling from country to country looking for an acting job. Jean spent most of their initial marriage period supporting this in London. 

The pair later moved back to Princeton, where they faced a personal tragedy, a premature baby who later passed away. They would later move to Manhattan, where Jean gave birth to their son Ian. Unfortunately, the pair split in 1980, and John married Mary Yeager in 1981.

Jean Lost Her First Child

Yes, Jean indeed had an older child who was born prematurely. The little boy only lived for a few days and sadly passed away. This was during John's Princeton days in about 1970

Jean and her ex-husband John were supported in this tragedy by John's mother and sister. There was also an outpouring of support from John's comrades at the Princeton theatre.

Ian Lithgow: Only Child Of Jean

Jean Tayton has one living child, Ian Lithgow, who was born after six years of marriage in 1972. He was born in New York while his father had left his Princeton job and was unemployed. As there was no maternity leave back then, Jean had to take a break from teaching to raise the baby.

Jean's son Ian Lithgow with wife and kids
Jean Taynton's son Ian Lithgow with wife and kids. (Source: The New Victory Theater)

Ian followed his father and pursued acting as a career for a short while before working as a counselor.  He is well-known for his role as Leon in the show 3rd Rock from the Sun (1996–2001). Ian currently works as a marriage therapist.

As of now, Ian is married to Rachel Lithgow. The pair has two kids together. His wife is a Jewish lady who takes an active interest in the family.

Affairs: Schism In The Marriage

In his memoirs, John has admitted to not being faithful in the days of his former marriage with Jean Taynton. After his broadway success, he confesses having a late 'adolescence' where he sought out women and had affairs. 

He justified his cheating as the result of living a controlled "obedient" life and having a late "adolescence." His affairs destroyed his marriage as John could not "help himself." The ex-couple did try to work things out but failed.

Found Herself In A Love Triangle

Jean found herself in a love triangle with the Hungarian actress Liv Ullmann when her then-husband John had an affair with Liv Ullmann. When she found out about the affair, she was outraged and angry. She left John for a time, and he again turned to Liv.

European actress Liv Ullmann (Source:

However, John continued to go back and forth between the two women, hurting them both. Ultimately, Jean and John called it quits. The pair divorced, and later Liv broke upon with John within a year.

Interests Of Jean

Jean Taynton has a large interest in classical music and the Old Masters. As the daughter of a member of the Philidelphia Orchestra, the young girl has access to some of the most talented musicians. She has a Contralto singing voice. 

An active athlete, she organized football games for her students and was a basketball fan. According to her ex-husband, John, she was very eloquent in subjects such as poetry, fiction, philosophy, and psychology. 

During college, Jean also performed in plays at the Highfield summer playhouse. This is where she would meet her former spouse John Lithgow.

After Divorce From John Lithgow

Jean Taynton got divorced in 1980 and got primary custody of their then-six-year-old son Ian Lithgow. As for John, he was given visitation rights. Since that divorce, Jean & her son have stayed away from the spotlight. 

John Lithgow and his now wife, Mary Yeager.
John Lithgow and his now wife, Mary Yeager. (source: Emmys)

John continued his glittering career and later married Mary Yeager, a professor at UCLA, in 1981. He had two more children with his second wife.

Jean's Teaching Career

Jean has had an extensive teaching career similar to Lauren Glaser. When she met her future husband, John Lithgow, she worked as a Cambridge teacher. 

There she focused on special education for children with emotional issues. At the same time, in the process of helping her future husband's initial acting aspirations, she has taken part in many school plays and stage performances. 

Work With Special Education

After her marriage, Jean and John moved to London, where Jean worked at “The Word Blind Centre,” teaching dyslexic children. She was very talented at her job and was the main earner.

Later in 1968, she followed her husband back to Princeton, USA, where John worked producing plays for his father, Arthur Lithgow. She also got a teaching job there.

After her husband quit and decided to move to New York, Jean went with him to the Upper West Side of Manhattan and resumed supporting his acting aspirations. She was resourceful in finding a job as a teaching specialist in Westchester County, which she continued til she gave birth to their son, Ian.


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