Early life and education
Jane Butzner was born in Scranton, PA on May 4, 1916. She began writing and after high school began working at the Scranton Tribune. Not long after she left for New York where she held several jobs and began taking classes at Columbia University’s School of General Studies, but not completing a degree. In her early writing career, she wrote features for the U.S. Office of War Information and was a freelance contributor to the Sunday Times Herald. She married architect Robert Jacobs in 1944. The couple has three children. Jacobs did most of her early writing about urban planning and cities from her Manhattan apartment, observing her neighborhood. The Jacobs family moved to Canada in 1968 and Jacobs continued to write and participate in urban activism for the rest of her life. Jacobs passed away on April 25, 2006 at the age of 89.
- Book: The Death and Life of Great American Cities.
- Book: The Economy of Cities
- Led protests against the completion of a lower Manhattan expressway.
Press and Awards
- Officer of the Order of Canada (1996)
- Awarded with an Outstanding Lifetime Contribution award by the American Sociological Association’s Community and Urban Sociology section (2002)
- First-ever “Jane Jacobs Day” held on Friday May 4, 2007 in Toronto.
- The Jane Jacobs Medal was created by the Rockefeller Foundation in 2007 to honor individuals whose “creative uses of the urban environment build a more diverse, dynamic and equitable city.”
- Jacobs, Jane. The Death and Life of Great American Cities. New York: Random House, 1961.
- Jacobs, Jane. The Economy of Cities. New York: Vintage, 1971.
- Jacobs, Jane. Cities and the Wealth of Nations. New York: Vintage, 1985.
- Jacobs, Jane. The Question of Separatism: Quebec and the Struggle over Sovereignty
- Jacobs, Jane. Systems of Survival. New York: Vintage: 1994.
- Jacobs, Jane. The Nature of Economies. New York: Vintage, 2001.
- Jacobs, Jane. Dark Age Ahead. New York: Random House, 2004.
- Columbia University School of General Studies alumna (1940s)
- “Cities, to thrive in the 21st century, must separate themselves politically from their surrounding areas.”
- Famous for saying “Eyes on the street”
- “The most important thing I’ve contributed is my discussion of what makes economic expansion happen. This is something that has puzzled people always. I think I’ve figured out what it is. Expansion and development are two different things. Development is differentiation of what already existed. Practically every new thing that happens is a differentiation of a previous thing, from a new shoe sole to changes in legal codes. Expansion is an actual growth in size or volume of activity. That is a different thing. I’ve gone at it two different ways.”
- “It may be that we have become so feckless as a people that we no longer care how things do work, but only what kind of quick, easy outer impression they give. If so, there is little hope for our cities or probably for much else in our society. But I do not think this is so.”
- “The other threat to the security of our tradition, I believe, lies at home. It is the current fear of radical ideas and of people who propound them. I do not agree with the extremists of either the left or the right, but I think they should be allowed to speak and to publish, both because they themselves have, and ought to have, rights, and once their rights are gone, the rights of the rest of us are hardly safe.”
“In her book ‘Death and Life of Great American Cities,’ written in 1961, Ms. Jacobs’s enormous achievement was to transcend her own withering critique of 20th-century urban planning and propose radically new principles for rebuilding cities. At a time when both common and inspired wisdom called for bulldozing slums and opening up city space, Ms. Jacobs’ prescription was even more diversity, density and dynamism — in effect, to crowd people and activities together in a jumping, joyous urban jumble.” —Douglas Martin, The New York Times, April 25, 2006