Thirty-two years after her defeat and six months after her death, former Mayor Jane Byrne finally has her photo alongside the “Women of the Chicago City Council.”
Ald. Edward Burke (14th), the resident historian once denounced by Byrne as part of a “cabal of evil men,” ordered Byrne’s photograph included in the photo gallery that honors the 47 women who have served in the City Council.
Ironically, Byrne takes her place in the photo exhibit that hangs on the wall in the second-floor hallway leading to the City Council chambers at a time when the number of women is going backward at City Hall.
The new City Council sworn in Monday includes fewer women than at any time in 20 years.
Twelve women took their seats in a Council chambers that once featured spittoons for cigar-chomping men. That’s down from 15 women in 2011 and 18 in 2007.
Not since 1991 has the number for women been so low. That year, nine women joined the City Council.
Aldermen Anna Langford (16th) and Marylou Hedlund (48th), the first women aldermen, joined the City Council in 1971.
They had to build a washroom for them. At the time, there was only a men’s room with a urinal behind the Council chambers.
That was the same year that then-Mayor Richard J. Daley appointed his Consumer Services Commissioner Jane Byrne to the largely symbolic role of co-chairman of the Cook County Regular Democratic Organization.
Byrne would go on to become Chicago’s first and only female mayor. She had to wait until last year, shortly before her death, to gain official recognition for her achievements and until this week to get her photo on the “Women of the Chicago City Council” gallery.
Byrne’s official portrait already hangs in the “wall of mayors” in the reception area in the mayor’s office on the fifth floor of City Hall.