Jane Jacobs Biography

Activist, Activist, Journalist(1916–2006)
Author and activist Jane Jacobs wrote about preserving urban neighborhoods, in books like The Death and Life of Great American Cities and Dark Age Ahead.

Synopsis

Jane Jacobs was born on May 4, 1916, in Scranton, Pennsylvania. After working as a reporter and a freelance writer, she joined the editorial staff of Architectural Forum in 1952. Her first work on the urban environment, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, was published in 1961. She published her last book, Dark Age Ahead, in 2004. She died on April 25, 2006, in Toronto, Canada.

Early Life

Urban theorist and writer Jane Jacobs was born on May 4, 1916, in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Although she had no formal training as an urban planner, Jane Jacobs revolutionized the way we look at cities. Her vision was inspired by her time living in New York City’s Greenwich Village neighborhood, a mixture of townhouses, walk-up apartment buildings and narrow streets that all fostered a sense of community.

Urban Environment Activism

After working as a reporter and a freelance writer, Jane Jacobs joined the editorial staff of Architectural Forum in 1952. She rallied against the push to modernize urban areas by tearing down established neighborhoods. Her first of many works on the urban environment, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, was published in 1961.

In the book, Jacobs explored what makes a neighborhood vital and how that clashed with contemporary thinking on urban planning. She provided many examples of great neighborhoods, including her own—New York’s Greenwich Village. In addition to writing, Jacobs also worked on many campaigns to preserve certain neighborhoods. She served on the New York Planning Board for a time. She is known for her vehement fight against Robert Moses' plans to build a highway through Greenwich and the West Village in lower Manhattan as he had done in other areas of New York City.

Personal Life and Later Years

Married to architect Robert Hyde Jacobs, Jr., since 1944, Jane Jacobs and her family relocated to Toronto, Canada, in 1968, in part over concern their sons would be drafted to fight in Vietnam. After leaving New York, she focused on her writing and began to expand the scope of her work. Some of her most notable works are Cities and the Wealth of Nations (1989), Systems of Survival (1992) and The Nature of Economies (2000).

In her final book, Dark Age Ahead (2004), Jane Jacobs expressed concern about cultural decay. She died on April 25, 2006, in Toronto, Canada.

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