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Jane Adams



jane adams.jpg

Jane was born and raised on a farm in Jackson County, Illinois. Since returning home in 1982, has lived and worked in Carbondale. She retired in May, 2010, after teaching Anthropology at Southern Illinois University Carbondale for 23 years. She lives with her husband, D. Gorton, on Elm Street, in Carbondale's Arbor District.

Jane attended a one-room school, Hickory Ridge, which consolidated into Ava and then became part of the Trico school system. She graduated from SIU's University School in 1961 and went to Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio. In 1964 she transferred to SIU and that summer went to Mississippi as a Freedom Summer Volunteer. She worked in Harmony Community, Leake County, Mississippi, then in the Jackson COFO office, and, in 1965, in Amite County. She went north and worked with SDS, first as a "Campus Traveler" in Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, and Missouri. She was elected National Secretary of SDS at the Clear Lake, Iowa, Convention. She organized "consciousness raising" groups in Chicago and Cleveland and contributed to the first formal resolution on Women's Liberation at the 1967 SDS convention. In the 1970s she worked with a hemispheric newspaper, "Indigena: News from Indian America," that covered the American Indian Movement and similar movements in Latin America, particularly the neotropics that were being opened for development. She pursued degrees in anthropology, earning a PhD from University of Illinois in 1987 with research on the social history of farming in Southern Illinois, during which she worked for an advocacy group, the Illinois South Project (now Illinois Stewardship Alliance) on the Farm Crisis, and with Mexican migrants who worked in the Southern Illinois orchards and vegetables.

From 1987 to 2010 she taught anthropology at SIU, with a cross-appointment in history. She published three books based on her Southern Illinois research: The Transformation of Rural Life: Southern Illinois 1890-1990 (University of North Carolina Press); "'All Anybody Ever Wanted of Me Was to Work': The Memoirs of Edith Bradley Rendleman" (SIU Press); and "Fighting for the Farm: Rural America Transformed" (University of Pennsylvania Press), as well as numerous articles. 

In the late 1990s Jane reconnected with a friend from the Freedom Movement and SDS, D. Gorton. They developed a collaboration, re-examining the roots of the movement in Mississippi, especially the Mississippi Delta. Much of that research appears on this site.  

Moving into Carbondale in 1996, Jane and D. bought several houses on their street that were in danger of being converted into student rentals. They renovated the homes, sold some, and continued to rent others. In 2006 their three houses on Cherry Street were recognized by the Carbondale Historic Preservation Commission for their annual Award. In their efforts to stabilize their neighborhood, they joined the neighborhood association, which they helped rename as the Arbor District. 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. She ran for and won a seat on the City Council in 2011, and in 2015 lost her run for Mayor. Since then she organized a group that has raised funds for Carbondale's first public dog park, which opened in 2022. In 2019 she ran for and won a seat as Commissioner on the Carbondale Park District Board.

She served on the Illinois Stewardship Alliance board of directors in the 1990s and again after her retirement. She remains a strong supporter of developing local food systems.

In 2017 D. and Jane opened a guest house (Airbnb) in the pool house that came with the historic home on they moved into in 2008. The Carbondale Pool House, with a sauna, Japanese ofouro soaking tub, and extensive gardens has become a destination for many people seeking a respite during the on-going COVID crisis. 

Jane has one daughter, Dawn, who has returned to Carbondale, and three stepchildren, Savannah, Doy, and Acton.

For more of D. Gorton's photographic work, see his site,

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