Jane Byrne
Jane Margaret Byrne was the first and to date only female Mayor
Mayor of Chicago
The Mayor of Chicago is the chief executive of Chicago, Illinois, the third largest city in the United States. He or she is charged with directing city departments and agencies, and with the advice and consent of the Chicago City Council, appoints department and agency leaders.-Appointment...

 of Chicago
Chicago is the largest city in the US state of Illinois. With nearly 2.7 million residents, it is the most populous city in the Midwestern United States and the third most populous in the US, after New York City and Los Angeles...

. She served from April 16, 1979 to April 29, 1983. Chicago is the largest city in the United States to have had a female mayor as of 2011.

Early political career

Byrne first entered politics to help John F. Kennedy
John F. Kennedy
John Fitzgerald "Jack" Kennedy , often referred to by his initials JFK, was the 35th President of the United States, serving from 1961 until his assassination in 1963....

 get elected President
President of the United States
The President of the United States of America is the head of state and head of government of the United States. The president leads the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces....

 in 1960
United States presidential election, 1960
The United States presidential election of 1960 was the 44th American presidential election, held on November 8, 1960, for the term beginning January 20, 1961, and ending January 20, 1965. The incumbent president, Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower, was not eligible to run again. The Republican Party...

. It was during that campaign that she first met Mayor Richard J. Daley
Richard J. Daley
Richard Joseph Daley served for 21 years as the mayor and undisputed Democratic boss of Chicago and is considered by historians to be the "last of the big city bosses." He played a major role in the history of the Democratic Party, especially with his support of John F...

. In 1968, Daley appointed her head of consumer affairs in Chicago
Chicago is the largest city in the US state of Illinois. With nearly 2.7 million residents, it is the most populous city in the Midwestern United States and the third most populous in the US, after New York City and Los Angeles...

. Byrne held that post until fired by mayor Michael Bilandic
Michael Anthony Bilandic
Michael Anthony Bilandic was an Illinois politician who served as the mayor of Chicago, Illinois and as Chief Justice of the Illinois Supreme Court. He was a member of the Democratic Party....

 in 1977. After her firing, Byrne launched a campaign to unseat Bilandic in the 1979 Democratic mayoral primary, the real contest in this heavily Democratic city. At first, political observers believed she had little chance of winning. However, a series of major snowstorms
Chicago Blizzard of 1979
The Chicago Blizzard of 1979 was a major blizzard that affected northern Illinois and northwest Indiana, U.S. on January 13-January 14, 1979. of snow fell on January 13 alone, setting a new record for snow in one calendar day...

 in January paralyzed the city and caused Bilandic to be seen as an ineffective leader. This helped give Byrne the edge she needed to win. She then won the general election with 72 percent of the vote--at the time, the largest margin ever recorded in a mayoral election.

Term as Mayor

Although she was a product of the Daley political machine
Political machine
A political machine is a political organization in which an authoritative boss or small group commands the support of a corps of supporters and businesses , who receive rewards for their efforts...

, Byrne positioned herself as a reformer in her first campaign. She won support from "lakefront liberals
Liberalism is the belief in the importance of liberty and equal rights. Liberals espouse a wide array of views depending on their understanding of these principles, but generally, liberals support ideas such as constitutionalism, liberal democracy, free and fair elections, human rights,...

" and African-Americans in addition to many more conservative whites on the city's north side. Byrne made some progressive moves as mayor, such as hiring the first black school superintendent, and she was the first Mayor to recognize the gay community. She temporarily moved into Cabrini–Green, a particularly notorious public housing development, for a time to bring attention and resources to the high crime rate there. She also effectively banned handgun possession for guns unregistered or purchased after the enactment of an ordinance. This two-year re-registration program effectively banned handgun possession.

Ultimately though, she was a disappointment to many of these reform-oriented constituencies. At the same time she never won over many old-guard "Daley Democrats" with whom she contended for control of the fading Cook County Democratic Party organization. As a result her coalition was an unstable mix of largely incompatible elements and she was ultimately unable to consolidate her position.

Byrne's political tactics as mayor ranged from modern media politics to largely unsuccessful attempts to play boss. She used special events, such as ChicagoFest
ChicagoFest was a summer music festival in the city of Chicago,started in 1978 by Mayor Michael Bilandic. It was held annually at Navy Pier, and lasted for roughly two weeks. It featured sixteen separate stages, each sponsored by a national retail brand and a media sponsor compatible to the stage's...

, to revitalize Navy Pier and Downtown Chicago Theatre. She endorsed Senator Edward Kennedy
Ted Kennedy
Edward Moore "Ted" Kennedy was a United States Senator from Massachusetts and a member of the Democratic Party. Serving almost 47 years, he was the second most senior member of the Senate when he died and is the fourth-longest-serving senator in United States history...

 for President in 1980, but could not stop President Jimmy Carter
Jimmy Carter
James Earl "Jimmy" Carter, Jr. is an American politician who served as the 39th President of the United States and was the recipient of the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize, the only U.S. President to have received the Prize after leaving office...

 from winning the Illinois Democratic Primary. She was able to replace Chairman of the Cook County Democratic Party, County Board President George Dunne
George Dunne
George W. Dunne was an American Democratic Party politician from Chicago, Illinois. He was President of the Cook County Board of Commissioners from 1969 to 1991; the longest service of anyone holding that office....

, a Daley loyalist, with her ally Alderman Edward Vrdolyak
Edward Vrdolyak
Edward Robert Vrdolyak is a noted Chicago lawyer and politician and a convicted felon. He was a powerful longtime Chicago Alderman and also head of the Cook County Democratic Party before running unsuccessfully for Mayor of Chicago as a Republican...

. However, her attempt to block the election of Richard M. Daley
Richard M. Daley
Richard Michael Daley is a United States politician, member of the national and local Democratic Party, and former Mayor of Chicago, Illinois. He was elected mayor in 1989 and reelected in 1991, 1995, 1999, 2003, and 2007. He was the longest serving Chicago mayor, surpassing the tenure of his...

, the son of her late mentor, to the prominent position of Cook County States' Attorney (chief local prosecutor) in 1980 failed as Daley defeated Byrne's candidate, 14th Ward Alderman Ed Burke
Ed Burke
Edward M. Burke is alderman of the 14th Ward of the City of Chicago. A member of the Democratic Party, he was first elected to the Chicago City Council in 1969, and represents part of the city's Southwest Side. Burke has been called Chicago's "most powerful alderman" by the Chicago Sun-Times...

 in the Democratic Primary and GOP incumbent Bernard Carey in the general election.

On Veteran's Day, November 11, 1981, Dan Goodwin
Dan Goodwin
American Dan Goodwin is a building, rock, and sports climber, as well as a stage-four cancer survivor, originally from Kennebunkport, Maine, United States, and living as of 2010 in Lake Tahoe, California.-Building climber:...

, who had successfully climbed the Sears Tower
Sears Tower
Sears' optimistic growth projections were not met. Competition from its traditional rivals continued, with new competition by retailing giants such as Kmart, Kohl's, and Wal-Mart. The fortunes of Sears & Roebuck declined in the 1970s as the company lost market share; its management grew more...

 on Memorial Day
Memorial Day
Memorial Day is a United States federal holiday observed on the last Monday of May. Formerly known as Decoration Day, it originated after the American Civil War to commemorate the fallen Union soldiers of the Civil War...

, battled for his life on the side of the John Hancock Center
John Hancock Center
John Hancock Center at 875 North Michigan Avenue in the Streeterville area of Chicago, Illinois, is a 100-story, 1,127-foot tall skyscraper, constructed under the supervision of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, with chief designer Bruce Graham and structural engineer Fazlur Khan...

. William Blair, Chicago's then fire commissioner, had ordered the Chicago Fire Department
Chicago Fire Department
The Chicago Fire Department, also known as the CFD, is the principal fire suppression, prevention, and rescue agency of Chicago, Illinois, under the jurisdiction of the mayor of Chicago. The Chicago Fire Department is the second largest fire department in the United States after the New York City...

 to stop Goodwin by directing a full power fire hose at him and by using fire axes to break window glass in Goodwin's path. Mayor Jane Byrne rushed to the scene and ordered the fire department to stand down. Then, through a smashed out 38th floor window, she told Goodwin, who was hanging from the building's side a floor below, that though she did not agree with his climbing of the John Hancock Center she certainly opposed the fire department knocking him to the ground below. Mayor Byrne then allowed Goodwin to continue to the top as thousands of people on the street below gave him an ovation and screamed, "Go! Go! Go!"

Later career

Byrne was narrowly defeated in the 1983 Democratic primary for Mayor by Harold Washington
Harold Washington
Harold Lee Washington was an American lawyer and politician who became the first African-American Mayor of Chicago, serving from 1983 until his death in 1987.- Early years and military service :...

. The younger Daley ran a close third, splitting the white vote with Byrne and allowing Washington to win the Democratic primary with just 36% of the vote. Washington went on to win the general election in a racially polarized contest. Byrne ran against Washington again in the 1987 primary but was defeated. She subsequently endorsed Washington for the general election, in which he faced three white opponents.

Byrne ran one more major campaign, a failed bid in the 1988 Democratic Primary for Cook County Circuit Court Clerk. Byrne sought Washington's support, yet shortly before his sudden death in late 1987 the Mayor endorsed Aurelia Pucinski, daughter of longtime Alderman Roman Pucinski
Roman Pucinski
Roman Conrad Pucinski was an American Democratic politician from Chicago, Illinois. He was a U.S. Representative from 1959 to 1973, and alderman from the 41st Ward of Chicago from 1973 to 1991...

, as part of a bid to reconcile with white machine politicians. Pucinski went on to defeat Byrne in the primary and Vrdolyak—by then a Republican—in the general election.

Byrne also ran against the younger Mayor Daley in 1991, but by this time she was very much a marginal figure. Daley's chief rival in that race was Alderman Danny K. Davis
Danny K. Davis
For other persons named Danny Davis, please see Daniel Davis .Daniel K. Davis is the U.S. Representative for , serving since 1997. He is a member of the Democratic Party.-Early life, education and career:...

, a black politician from the West Side who himself did not pose an especially forceful challenge.

Byrne now lives in the same apartment building she has lived in since the 1970s. Her second husband, journalist Jay McMullen, died of lung cancer in 1992. Her first husband, a Navy pilot, died when his plane crashed while landing at Glenview Naval Air Station. Byrne has one grandchild, Willie. Her daughter, Kathy, is a lawyer with a Chicago firm. Her book, My Chicago (ISBN 0-8101-2087-9), was published in 1992, and covers her life through her political career.

On May 16, 2011 Byrne attended the inauguration of Rahm Emanuel
Rahm Emanuel
Rahm Israel Emanuel is an American politician and the 55th and current Mayor of Chicago. He was formerly White House Chief of Staff to President Barack Obama...

 as Mayor of Chicago in a rare public appearance due to health problems she has experienced in recent years. Byrne, David Orr and Richard M. Daley
Richard M. Daley
Richard Michael Daley is a United States politician, member of the national and local Democratic Party, and former Mayor of Chicago, Illinois. He was elected mayor in 1989 and reelected in 1991, 1995, 1999, 2003, and 2007. He was the longest serving Chicago mayor, surpassing the tenure of his...

 are currently the only living former Mayors of Chicago.

Personal life

Byrne was born Jane Margaret Burke on May 24, 1934. In 1956, she married William P. Byrne, a marine. The couple had a daughter, Kathy. On May 31, 1959, while flying from Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point
Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point
Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point or MCAS Cherry Point is a United States Marine Corps airfield located in Havelock, North Carolina, USA, in the eastern part of the state...

 to Naval Air Station Glenview in a Skyraider, Lt. Byrne attempted to land in a dense fog. After being waved off for landing twice, his plane's wing struck the porch of a nearby house and the plane crashed into Sunset Memorial Park, killing Lt. Byrne.

Byrne married Jay McMullen in 1978 and they remained married until his death in 1992.
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