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Jane Jacobs papers

Collection MS-1995-029: Jane Jacobs papers


  • Creation: approximately 1860-2006
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1960 - 2002

Scope and Contents

These papers contain correspondence, clippings, research, and manuscripts related to Jane Jacobs's work as an author and activist. Also included are Jacobs's scrapbooks and date books, photographs, awards and honors, and recordings of interviews and talks.

Much of Jacob's professional life is documented through her correspondence. Items of interest include a letter from President Lyndon Johnson, a note regarding her work from former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt, and files of critical and fan responses to her books. Her personal life is illustrated by documents including her wedding invitation, high school and secretarial diplomas, passports, and birth and death certificates.

The papers also include photographs of Jane and Bob Jacobs, many of them portraits, and candid shots of Jane at public and private events. These show her enjoying the outdoors, at work at her typewriter, at rallies, and in jail with Susan Sontag. Snapshots with family and friends comprise a significant portion of these materials.


Language of Materials

This collection is mostly in English, with some materials in French and Japanese.

Restrictions on Access

Collection is open for research. Letters of recommendation are closed due to privacy restrictions. Most audiovisual recordings have been digitally copied; all original media were retained, but may not be played due to format. Digital use copies can only be accessed in the Burns Library Reading Room. Recordings on Umatic videocassette are not available for playback due to format impermanence and cannot be reformatted by Burns Library at this time. Please let Burns Library Public Services know of your specific interest; when it becomes possible we will schedule reformatting.

Conditions Governing Use

These materials are made available for use in research, teaching and private study, pursuant to U.S. Copyright Law. The user must assume full responsibility for any use of the materials, including but not limited to, infringement of copyright and publication rights of reproduced materials. Any materials used for academic research or otherwise should be fully credited with the source. The original authors may retain copyright to the materials.

Biographical note

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.


1961 The Death and Life of Great American Cities

1969 The Economy of Cities

1980 The Question of Separatism: Quebec and the Struggle over Sovereignty

1980 Canadian Cities and Sovereignty Association

1983 The Economy of Regions

1984 Cities and the Wealth of Nations: Principles of Economic Life

1989 The Girl on the Hat (Juvenile Fiction, coauthored by Karen Rezuch)

1992 Systems of Survival: A Dialogue on the Moral Foundations of Commerce and Politics

1995 A Schoolteacher in Old Alaska: The Story of Hannah Breece

2000 The Nature of Economies

2000 Toronto: Considering Self-Government

2004 Dark Age Ahead


Allen, Max, ed. Ideas That Matter: The Worlds of Jane Jacobs. Ontario: Ginger Press, 1997.

Jacobs, Jane. Architect's Journal. November 22, 1961.

"Jane Jacobs." In Contemporary Authors Online. Accessed 2006.


33.5 Linear Feet (57 containers)


These papers document the work of author and urban planning activist Jane Jacobs. They contain correspondence, clippings, lecture recordings, manuscripts, research material, and notes related to Jacobs's professional life. Also included are date books, awards and diplomas, scrapbooks, and photographs.


This collection is arranged in seven series: I. Correspondence; II. Writings; III. Activism; IV. Events; V. Biographical; VI. Photographs; and VII. Awards and honors.

Series I. Correspondence is divided into two subseries: A. By correspondent; B. By topic or activity.

Series II. Writings is divided into three subseries: A. Books; B. Short works; and C. Research, drafts, and notes.

Series IV. Events is divided into three subseries: A. Conference materials; B. Interviews and lectures; and C. Other events.

Series V. Biographical is divided into four subseries: A. Date books; B. Documents and ephemera; C. Clippings; and D. Scrapbooks.

Series VI. Photographs divided into two subseries: A. Jacobs's photographs and B. Hanna Breece's photographs.


Gift of Jane Jacobs, 1995 and 2002.

Other accessions include gifts from Boston College Law School, 2001; Films for the Humanities and Sciences Group, 2004; Rose Mary Cipryk and J. Joseph Weadick, 2004; The Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, 2009; and Hidenori Tamagawa, 2014.

Related Materials

David Gurin and Jane Jacobs correspondence, MS.2017.031, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Separated Materials

Published works associated with this collection have been transferred within the Burns Library and can be found in the Boston College Library catalog.

Previous description

This collection was reprocessed in 2009, bringing together accession numbers MS1995-029, MS2001-049, MS2002-013, MS2004-039, MS2009-019, MS2009-020, and MS2010-002.

Processing Information

Content was migrated from original media prior to Burns Library's ability to provide research access to digital files. For recordings of events marked as being on CD or DVD, access audio and video is on CD and DVD (Boxes 34 and 45).

Jane Jacobs Papers
approximately 1860-2006 (bulk 1960-2002)
Patrick Rey, 1996, Katie McCormick and Kelly J.S. McGovern, 2004. Revised by Amy Devlin, 2007, and Katie Daily
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the John J. Burns Library Repository

John J. Burns Library
Boston College
140 Commonwealth Avenue
Chestnut Hill MA 02467 United States