CHICAGO, Nov. 14 (UPI) -- Jane Byrne, Chicago's only woman mayor, died Friday surrounded by her family and looking out "at the city she loved," her daughter said.
Byrne, 81, had been ill for several years. She was in hospice care in a downtown highrise and her daughter, Kathy, said she drew her last breaths in front of a large window with a view of Lake Michigan.
"She looked down on the city she loved," Kathy Byrne said.
"Mayor Byrne was a Chicago icon who lived a remarkable life of service to our city," Emanuel said in a statement. "From signing the first ordinance to get handguns off of our streets, to bringing more transparency to the City's budget, to creating the Taste of Chicago, Mayor Byrne leaves a large and lasting legacy. And as the first woman to serve as Mayor, she will always have a special place in our history."
Byrne was elected mayor in 1979, defeating Michael Bilandic, who became mayor when Richard Daley died, in the Democratic primary and went on to win the general election. She was ousted in 1983 by Harold Washington, the city's first black mayor.
A native of Chicago, Byrne graduated from Barat College of the Sacred Heart in Lake Forest, Ill. At the age of 23, she married William Byrne but was left a widow less than three years later when her husband, a U.S. Marine Corps pilot, was killed in a plane crash.
While Byrne ran for mayor as a reformer, she followed a conventional path through Chicago politics. She began working on the campaign of John F. Kennedy in 1960 and became close to Daley and remained a loyal ally for the rest of his life.
Byrne decided to run for mayor after Bilandic fired her as consumer services commissioner. She ran against the machine.
Her years as mayor disappointed many of her former supporters. While she had support from black leaders and voters in 1979, four years later many criticized, including Jesse Jackson who organized a boycott of one major civic celebration, ChicagoFest.
Don Rose, who managed Byrne's 1979 campaign, said being a woman hurt her in the world of Chicago politics. Rose resigned from her administration.
"She did a lot of wacky things, or seemed to," he told the Chicago Tribune. "But I think she was subjected to more ridicule and was criticized in many ways beyond what a man would have been in her position.
In her later years, Byrne lived quietly, although she made some attempts at elective office. Her second husband, Jay McMullen, a newspaper reporter she married shortly before she ran for mayor, died.
"She was probably not prepared to be mayor, not that you go to school for it," Rose said. "Although the stories were probably wilder than the actual actions, I think some of her eccentricities were due to the fact that she was just really overwhelmed."