Jane Jacobs OC OOnt (born Jane Butzner; May 4, 1916 – April 25, 2006) was an American-Canadian journalist, author, and activist best known for her influence on urban studies, sociology, and economics. Her influential book The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961) argued that urban renewal did not respect the needs of most city-dwellers. In the book she introduced sociological concepts such as “eyes on the street” and “social capital”.
Jacobs was well known for organizing grassroots efforts to protect existing neighborhoods from “slum clearance” – and particularly for her opposition to Robert Moses in his plans to overhaul her neighborhood, Greenwich Village.
She was instrumental in the eventual cancellation of the Lower Manhattan Expressway, which would have passed directly through SoHo and Little Italy. She was arrested in 1968 for inciting a crowd at a public hearing on that project. After moving to Toronto in 1968, she joined the opposition to the Spadina Expressway and the associated network of expressways in Toronto planned, and under construction.
As a mother and a writer who criticized experts in the male-dominated field of urban planning, Jacobs endured scorn from established figures. She did not have a college degree or any formal training in urban planning, and her lack of such credentials was seized upon as grounds for criticism by some. Learn more here: