Mayor Jane Byrne
July 31, 2014 11:09 AM   Subscribe

Jane Byrne was the first, and, so far, only, female mayor of Chicago, serving from 1979-1983.

A few moments from her term as mayor:

She allowed a SWAT team invade Daley Plaza in order to chase down two bluesmen intent on paying an overdue tax bill.

She passed an executive order outlawing discrimination against gays & lesbians in city jobs & services (paywalled link) and is credited as the first Chicago mayor to participate in Pride.

She and her husband briefly moved into the Cabrini-Green housing project. It was not well-received.

She hedged on a deal with the Chicago Firefighters Union, leading to a 23-day firefighters strike. (PDF link) She again feuded with the Fire Department over their handling of "Spider" Dan Goodwin's attempt to climb the John Hancock Building.

Jane Byrne, 80, still lives in Chicago. This week, the Chicago City Council announced they will name a park in her honor.

1983 Mayoral Primary debate between Byrne, Washington and Richard M. Daley.
posted by macadamiaranch (7 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I'd moved to Chicago as a 13-year-old in 1977, and one of the first political contests that involved things that affected me directly was that mayoral election; I remember shoveling out snowdrifts that went up to my head. I also remember being amused when ChicagoFest became "Mayor Jane M. Byrne's ChicagoFest", after she initially tried to have it cancelled--then having Jesse Jackson lead a boycott of the 'Fest for various reasons having to do with Byrne's dealing with black Chicagoans.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:24 AM on July 31, 2014

Man, 1980s Chicago is lightyears from the city it is today.

To it's credit (or discredit), the Blues Brothers movie actually captures how the city felt back then. Just plain ol' nasty and filthy.
posted by JoeZydeco at 1:32 PM on July 31, 2014

(To the tune of AC/DC "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap"): Cabrini Green, where the mayor sleeps!
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 1:33 PM on July 31, 2014

Looking forward to digging through these-- thanks!
posted by travertina at 4:01 PM on July 31, 2014

I grew up in the Chicago area from the 1960s until the 1990s and Jane Byrne was a hero to me. She also was dealt a shit hand. Even Daley's Machine would have had trouble with that storm. I remember how the kids on my block dug tunnels to each other's doors. The block turned into a snow habitrail. It was so fucking awesome. Somewhere I have a picture of my sister sitting on the top of the sign, poking out of a drift, announcing our block, Library Lane.

Yeah, she created community, sometimes because/in spite of her relative inexperience. So much of the celebrating of Chicago neighborhoods today grew out of her efforts. And I was so proud that she did it in Chicago, in spite of the odds. I love Jane Byrne. What she did in the 70s — early 80s was a miracle.
posted by Toekneesan at 4:15 PM on July 31, 2014 [2 favorites]

She also was dealt a shit hand. Even Daley's Machine would have had trouble with that storm.

It was Daley's Machine, in the personage of Mike Bilandic, who had trouble. The storm benefited Byrne and propelled her to office. So I don't get what you mean here.

Though I'm ostensibly from the IVI-IPO (indepedents, mostly of a more progressive or goo-goo bent than the Machine) cadres (Hyde Park born) that elected her, I don't think she was a very good mayor in the end.

In a number of critical ways Chicago's mayors have been a, um, land of contrasts. I think Daley II was a pretty good mayor in certain necessary ways, but also a pretty shitty mayor in others like continued graft. Emanuel has also had his really good points while being a shitty mayor AND human being.
posted by dhartung at 12:27 AM on August 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Doh, completely misremembered. You are absolutely right. For some reason I thought she lost reelection because of that storm. But it's the other way around. Still, that storm was fun if you were a kid.
posted by Toekneesan at 3:21 AM on August 1, 2014

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