Jane Jacobs (née Butzner) was born on May 4, 1916, in Scranton, Pennsylvania, the daughter of John
Butzner, a physician, and Bess Robison Butzner. After graduating from Scranton's Central High School,
Jacobs briefly trained to become a stenographer before taking a position as a reporter with the Scranton
Tribune. In 1938, she moved to New York City and attended Columbia University's School of General
Studies for two years. In the years that followed, she held a number of writing and editing jobs. In 1944,
she married Robert Hyde Jacobs, Jr., an architect, with whom she had three children: James Kedzie
(1948), Edward Decker (1950), and Mary Hyde (1955).
In 1952, Jacobs became an associate editor at Architectural Forum magazine, where she was introduced
to the topics of city planning and rebuilding. She wrote a book sponsored by the Rockefeller Foundation
that focused on American cities: The Death and Life of Great American Cities was published in 1961
and went on to become Jacobs's most well-known book. In addition to her writing, Jacobs was also
an activist. She was arrested in 1968 after she disrupted a public meeting about the Lower Manhattan
Expressway, a project she opposed.
Jacobs moved to Toronto with her family in 1969 in part due to her objection to the Vietnam War. She
quickly became an influential figure in Toronto and soon after her arrival helped to stop plans for the
construction of the Spadina Expressway. Jacobs became a Canadian citizen in 1974. She continued to
write on topics including urban issues, Canadian cities and sovereignty, and economics. Jacobs was
nominated to the Order of Canada in 1996 for her work on urban development. Her last book, Dark Age
Ahead, was published in 2004. Jane Jacobs died on April 25, 2006, in Toronto.