Jane Jackson, Rights Activist, 1934–2007

By Libby McMahon
Friday October 05, 2007

Rights activist and devout Episcopalian Jane Jackson passed away peacefully Sept. 26 in her beloved Santiago de Cuba. She is survived in the U.S. by her two daughters and their families, by her daughter and her family in Havana, and by all those whose lives she made better during her lifetime of struggle for the rights of people everywhere. Jane was a brilliant, tenacious, determined champion of justice. It is impossible to list all the world’s, the country’s and her neighborhood’s problems to which Jane gave her time, energy, money and love trying to solve.  

To name just a few, Jane fought for civil rights in the United States, ending the Vietnam War, ending apartheid in South Africa, human rights for people with AIDS, and enabling the fullest possible participation for people with disabilities. She strove to prevent and then to end the Iraq War. She stayed up nights finding ways to ease the burden borne by Cubans. She fought for the rights of prisoners, people in nursing homes, medical marijuana users and so many more, including many people she just happened to meet who needed help.  

Born to an affluent family in 1934, Jane’s initial struggle was with dyslexia, which complicated but could never stop her logical mind from satisfying her irrepressible drive to learn. As a young woman she began to suffer bouts of dizziness, diagnosed decades later as Meniere’s Syndrome. Adopting the wheelchair for which she is now best known, she plastered it with social justice bumper stickers and globetrotted for the next 30 years, afflicting the comfortable and comforting the afflicted.  

So, whenever you see a curb cut, or better yet four curb cuts in the same intersection, whenever you see a person in a wheelchair using a lift on a public bus, or riding BART because the elevator actually worked, Jane is one of the people to thank. We will miss her unavoidable, undeniable presence, usually found on the front lines wherever people are struggling for justice.  

A celebration of her life will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday Nov. 17 at St. James Episcopal Church, 1540 12th Ave., Oakland. Stories, memories and other expressions may be sent to janejackson7555@aol.com or to Jane Jackson, 275 E. 12th St., Oakland 94606.  

Donations in her name may be made to Episcopal Relief and Development c/o St. James Episcopal Church, 1540 12th Ave., Oakland, CA 94606, or to the donor’s favorite charity.  

With very minimal overhead, Episcopal Relief & Development funds immediate crisis relief and a wide variety of long-term development projects identified by local people in communities around the world who will directly benefit by these projects. Housing and water system construction, job training programs and many other projects use local labor and materials, generating a beneficial economic ripple effect in the communities where the money is spent. Its work is unrelated to differences within the Episcopal community on the issue of gender rights, except that those differences may hinder Relief and Development’s ability to raise funds for its work. Thank you for considering a donation to this important organization.  


Libby McMahon is Jane Jackson’s daughter.