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Jane Jacobs, 1916–2006

The male revolutionary leaders of the twentieth century were mostly monsters, responsible for untold death and destruction. But the twentieth century also produced an extraordinary group of revolutionary women whose accomplishments improved life for others: Rachel Carson, Betty Friedan, Rosa Parks, Julia Child, and Jane Jacobs, the author of The Death and Life of Great American Cities, who died on April 25, 2006, just short of her ninetieth birthday. Like the others Jane was essentially self-educated, for there was no one to teach these women what they knew. Perhaps for this reason they could penetrate the miasma of professionalism that shielded institutionalized malpractice. What these women had in common was a genius for the day-to-day arrangements on which everything else depends, arrangements which their male counterparts did so much to destroy.

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