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Jane was born and raised on a farm in Jackson County and, since returning home in 1982, has lived and worked in Carbondale. She retired in May, 2010, after teaching Anthropology at SIUC for 23 years. She lives with her husband, D. Gorton, on Elm Street, in Carbondale’s Arbor District.
Jane grew up with Southern Illinois University. She graduated from University High School and earned her B.A. from SIU. She earned a PhD in Anthropology from University of Illinois Urbana Champaign, and soon joined the faculty at SIU.
Jane and D. own several houses in and around the Arbor District that they have renovated. Jane handles the business’s finances as well as investing sweat equity in renovating and maintaining the properties. In 2006 their three houses on Cherry Street were recognized by the Carbondale Historic Preservation Commission for their annual Award.
Jane was the Arbor District representative on the Comprehensive Plan Advisory Committee and through that, developed an appreciation for issues facing the entire Carbondale community.
For more than 30 years Jane has contributed to developing our local food system. Since the 2009 super derecho she has been working with the Carbondale Farmers Market, FoodWorks, the Dunn Richmond Center, and other community groups to establish a permanent, 12-month farmers market and a location for incubating value-added food processing. She recently re-joined the Board of the Illinois Stewardship Alliance, the leading statewide organization promoting sustainable farming and development of local farming systems..
Jane has one daughter, Dawn, and three stepchildren, Savannah, Doy, and Acton.
Jane’s deepest commitment is to citizen engagement to keep our democracy and our communities strong. She participated in Freedom Summer in Mississippi in 1964 and 1965, worked with various social action organizations in the1960s and 1970s, including volunteering at the Carbondale Women’s Center. In the 1980s she worked with the Illinois South Project on the Farm Crisis, and in the 1980s and 1990s served on the boards, with several years as president, of Su Casa-Migrant Headstart in Cobden and the Illinois Stewardship Alliance. At SIU she served on numerous committees and served as mentor to a number of new women faculty and as faculty sponsor for several student organizations. She was treasurer of the Arbor District Neighborhood Association and is treasurer and past president of the ACLU.
Although retired, Jane remains a dedicated teacher and scholar. She was named Outstanding Teacher in the Core Curriculum and in the College of Liberal Arts. Her academic research has focused on the history of farming in Southern Illinois and more broadly. She has brought her research skills to researching the history of the Arbor District and to understanding housing patterns in the city. Her books, The Transformation of Rural Life: Southern Illinois 1890-1990 and “All Anybody Ever Wanted of Me Was to Work”: The Memoirs of Edith Bradley Rendleman, and Fighting for the Farm: Rural America Transformed, have received several awards.