Jane Byrne

When Jane Byrne (1933-2014) ran for mayor, her opponent’s campaign team portrayed her as a "shrill, charging, vindictive person—and nothing makes a woman look worse."  Several factors (including the city’s paralysis after a major snowstorm) gave Byrne the victory making her the first female mayor of Chicago and the first woman to be elected mayor of any major US city.

Byrne had both successes and challenges during her tenure as mayor. In an effort to address violence in the city, Byrne moved into the Cabrini Green housing project for a time. When Byrne ran for a second term as mayor, she (the first female mayor of Chicago) was defeated by Harold Washington (the first Black mayor of Chicago).

Why this stop? A block east of this station is the Mayor Jane Byrne Plaza at the Water Tower, a small park that includes the historic Water Tower that survived the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 and served as inspiration to Byrne who lived across the street. Her daughter, Kathy Byrne, recounts, "During the time that my mom was mayor, and for many years both before and after, she lived right across the street from that park, and she said that whatever the trouble was in the city, whatever the crisis that was brewing, she could look at and see that Water Tower and say, 'You survived the fire, and there was no city left, and you made it.’ So whatever matter was before her,…it was a great symbol of hope and inspiration.”

Watch this AM Chicago Show, hosted by Oprah Winfrey (vintage 1984—before she was Oprah) which features a lively panel including Jane Byrne and others discussing the possibility of a female Vice-President.