Jane Margaret Byrne's idea of bringing awareness to violence in poverty-filled neighborhoods in Chicago was to experience it firsthand.
Did you know that Lori Lightfoot wasn't the first woman to be Mayor of Chicago?
Jane M. Byrne, born May 24, 1933, was the first woman to be elected Mayor of a major city in the United States when she won the Chicago election, and she was in office from 1979 to 1983.
The politician was known for various things, but her choice to live in the projects was probably the most talked about for many reasons. Byrne decided to move into the Cabrini-Green Homes housing project on the near North side after 37 shootings and 17 murders occurred in the first three months of 1981.
She wanted to put the area "on a bigger map" and thought the best way to do that was to move there. Byrne closed down several liquor stores in the area known to be "gang hangout spots" and ordered Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) to evict some tenants that were "suspected gang members" before moving into a 4th-floor apartment on March 31, 1981.
According to an article in the Chicago Tribune, Byrne didn't live in the apartment full-time. She looked at it as an "in-town" apartment. "I will consider it as a place I go to on some nights and not on others," she said.
She and her husband were in for a ride as police supposedly raided the apartment building after hearing about a "shootout" that was supposed to happen later that day. Yet, Byrne claimed that her first day in her new residence was "lovely and very quiet."
They were there for three weeks, ending their stay on April 18, 1981, after protestors claimed that the move was a publicity stunt and did nothing to "bring awareness to the housing project's crime and infrastructure problems."
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