1. Jacobs was born in Scranton, PA, but moved to NYC in 1932 and as early as 1935 she had published some of her impressions of the city in a multi-part series in Vogue magazine. Earlier, she had written poetry for the Girl Scouts’s magazine, American Girl.
2. She published a 1941 book on the intellectual foundations of the American Constitution, with Columbia University Press under her maiden name Jane Butzner and the title Constitutional Chaff. At about the same time her manuscript was being accepted, she was kicked out of Columbia for taking too many extended studies classes, and not allowed admission to Barnard.
3. In 1940 she wrote an article based on her study of the embossed acronyms on manhole covers.
4. She then worked as writer during WWII for the Office of War Information and the State Department. Before Pearl Harbor, she had been an isolationist.
5. Henri Pirenne’s work on medieval cities was one of the biggest influences on her.
6. In the 1940s, she also worked for a metals industry magazine, and smoked a pipe in her office. They started to wonder whether she was a troublemaker.
7. She married an architect in 1944, then taking the name Jacobs. They enjoyed bicycling and sociometry together. She had sons in 1948 and 1950.
8. Alger Hiss had been her superior at the State Department, and in the late 1940s Jacobs was investigated for possible Communist ties, in part because she had tried to apply for a visa to Siberia, using Hiss as her contact. She stated in response that she abhorred communism and favored radical decentralization.
There is much more! But that is a taste from the new and excellent Becoming Jane Jacobs, a runs-up-through 1972 biography by Peter L. Laurence, definitely one of the best books of the year. This is the biography of Jacobs I have wanted to read for forty years.
Addendum: There is a new Jane Jacobs movie coming to the Toronto film festival.