Jane Jacobs was born in the coal mining town of Pennsylvania on 4th May, 1916, the daughter of a doctor and former school teacher and nurseJohn Decker Bazner & Bas Robison Bazner & wife of Robert Jacobs. After graduating from high school, she took an unpaid position at the Scranton Tribune as an assistant to the Women’s Page Editor. A year later, in the midst of the depression, she left Scranton for New York City.
Jane Jacobs was an American-Canadian journalist, writer, and activist who influenced urban studies, sociology, and economics. Her book The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961) argued that urban renewal did not respect the needs of the townspeople. It also introduced sociopolitical concepts “eyes on the road” and “social capital”.
Jacobs organized grassroots efforts to protect the neighborhood from “slum clearance”, particularly Robert Moshe’s plan to overhaul his Greenwich Village neighborhood. He was instrumental in the final cancellation of the Lower Manhattan Expressway, which would pass directly through Soho and Little Italy. She was arrested in 1968 for instigating the mob in a public hearing on that project.
After moving to Toronto in 1968, she joined the opposition to the Spadina Expressway and the affiliated network of expressways in Toronto and went under construction.
As a mother and a writer who criticized experts in the male-dominated field of urban planning, Jacobs took a sarcasm from established figures. She had no college degree or any formal training in urban planning, and his lack of credibility was seized on the basis of criticism.
During his first several years in the city she had done wide variety of jobs, working primarily as a stenographer and freelance writer, often writing about working districts in the city. These experiences, she explains, “gave me a perception of what was going on in the city and what business was like, what work was like.”
Jane Jacobs joined the Architectural Forum editorial staff in 1952, after working as a reporter and a freelance writer. She rallied against crowd to demolish established areas and modernize urban areas. Many of his works were published in 1961 on the urban environment, The Death and Life of Great American Cities.
In the book, Jacobs explores what makes a neighborhood important and how it collides with contemporary thinking on urban planning. She provided many examples of several neighborhoods including his own New York, Greenwich Village. In addition to writing, Jacobs also worked on several campaigns to preserve some neighborhoods.
She served on the New York Planning Board for a time. She is known for her battle against Robert Moses to build a highway in lower Manhattan through Greenwich and the West Village, as she did in other areas of New York City.
In 1952, Jacob worked as an editor at the magazine Architecture Forum. “I went to the Architectural Forum, and they said well, now you’re our school and hospital specialist,” Jacob recalled writing to Paul Goldberger in American Scholar. “This was the first time I suspected the experts. I knew nothing, not even to read the plans.” With the help of her husband, Jacobs needed her knowledge.
In the optimistic atmosphere of 1950s America, planners believed that urban design had the power to ameliorate poverty and other social problems. Many cities were block after block of old neighborhoods and replaced with towering towers in parked settings, some of them rent subsidized to poor residents, others quite luxurious.
This process went under the name of slum clearance, or, more modestly, urban renewal. Jacobs, in his architecture magazine Post, had seen the front row of the process, which was superintended almost exclusively by the male corps of city government officials. She went on assignment in Philadelphia, where Planning Director Ed Bacon showed her around a new development.