FIGHTING JANE: Mayor Jane Byrne and the Chicago Machine by Bill & Lori Granger Granger

FIGHTING JANE: Mayor Jane Byrne and the Chicago Machine

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The fascinating tale of Jane Byrne's rise and fall, and rise and fall within Chicago's Democratic Machine. The Grangers (he's a Chicago journalist) detail Byrne's ""lace-curtain Irish"" background, presenting her as abrasive and unsmiling, and given to ruffled clothes, heavy make-up, spike heels, and Daleyesque speech patterns. After her 1960 Kennedy campaign work and subsequent meeting with Daley, we follow her gradual rise within the Party, despite antipathy from regulars. Daley backed her consistently as she mandated stringent ordinances for her Consumer Affairs department--she was his veneer of reform--and later tapped her to organize Chicago's liberal enclaves for the machine (networks Byrne would use in her own campaign). After Daley's death, the Machine ignored her, but Mayor Bilandic kept her as Consumer Affairs Commissioner until she talked on TV of ""a conspiracy to allegedly 'grease' the way"" for a taxi fare hike. Bilandic fired her; Byrne--the independent--announced for Mayor; snowstorms crippled Chicago before election day; and Byrne won big. As Mayor, she did not oust party regulars, because, say the Grangers, she saw herself as ""the new Daley"" ready to boss the Machine. But Chicago was a shambles with uniformed services striking and Byrne using the police ""like her private army"" (even calling them late at night during fights with her husband). The Grangers concede that Chicago's problems were not--and are not--all her fault; but Primary Day 1980 saw union-backed Richie Daley, son of the late R.D., nominated for State Attorney against Byrne's man (she later claimed to have backed Daley) and Carter beating Kennedy after Byrne's aborted endorsement and switch to the Senator. The Grangers conclude--weakly--that ""Fighting Jane"" always felt ""they were all against her"" and that her ""tragedy was finally that the fight never ended."" Otherwise, a devastating political portrait.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1980
Publisher: Dial