Before Death and Life

Before Death and Life

A friend recently pointed me toward this fascinating piece by Peter L. Laurence about the pre-Death and Life writings of Jane Jacobs. Sometimes it feels like her career began with Death and Life, and she certainly made no effort to associate the book with her previous work. Her first published writings were for Vogue when she was still a teenager, documenting the daily life of residents in various sections of New York City. During the Second World War, she began the activism that would define her later life, advocating for a move of wartime industry to her lagging hometown of Scranton, PA. The rest of her career included a stint with the State Department (where she, like everyone else, was investigated for communist ties) and a long period writing for Architectural Forum. The last two jobs spurred her interest in urban renewal, and she took time off in 1958 when she was forty-five to write Death and Life – and we all know the story from there. 

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