A fearless writer in the Miami wilderness
“What a life. A character with character. Minced no words. A romantic. Drank too much, smoked too much, cursed too much. Listened better than anyone. A heart for the less blessed. A kickass journalist. A ‘Mummy’ and ‘Grandmud’ who cared fiercely for family. This book has most everything because Jane Wood Reno had and did most everything.”—David Lawrence Jr., retired publisher, Miami Herald
“A true genius, a brilliant newspaper reporter, the mother of a future US attorney general, and a hellsapopping Everglades woman, Jane Wood Reno could do it all. My great regret is that I never got to talk about bass fishing or catch snakes with her. Yet I feel I know her from reading George Hurchalla’s fabulous biography of a forgotten Florida icon.”—Jeff Klinkenberg, author of Son of Real Florida: Stories from My Life
“Reno’s fascinating life story not only reveals the colorful life of a true ‘Florida woman’ from the days when women’s page reporters were relegated to gender-segregated newsrooms but also sheds new light on Depression-era South Florida.”—Peggy Macdonald, author of Marjorie Harris Carr: Defender of Florida’s Environment
“Contains diverting and significant glimpses of pioneer life in early twentieth-century South Florida, of the Miccosukee and Seminole peoples, of Miami as a ‘wide-open’ town where gaming flourished and corruption was rife, and of an adventurous, strong-willed woman’s life.”—Les Standiford, author of Center of Dreams: Building a World-Class Performing Arts Complex in Miami
Journalist, activist, and adventurer, Jane Wood Reno (1913–1992) was one of the most groundbreaking and colorful American women of the twentieth century. Told by her grandson, George Hurchalla, The Extraordinary Life of Jane Wood Reno is an intimate biography of a free thinker who shattered barriers during the explosive early years of Miami.
Easily recognizable today as the mother of former attorney general Janet Reno, Jane Wood Reno’s own life is less widely known. Born to a Georgia cracker family, Reno scored as a genius on an IQ test at the age of 11, earned a degree in physics during the Depression, worked as a social worker, explored the Everglades, wrestled alligators, helped pioneer scuba diving in Florida, interviewed Amelia Earhart, downed shots with Tennessee Williams, traveled the world, and raised four children. She built her own house by hand, funding the project with her writing.
Hurchalla uses letters he unearthed from the family homestead and delves into Miami newspaper archives to portray Reno’s sharp intelligence and determination. Reno wrote countless freelance articles under male names for the Miami Daily News until she became so indispensable that the paper was forced to take her on staff and let her publish under her own name. She exposed Miami’s black-market baby racket, revealed the abuse of children at the now infamous Dozier School for Boys, and supported the Miccosukee Indians in their historic land claim.
Reno’s life offers a view of the Roaring Twenties through the 1960s from the perspective of a swamp-stomping woman who rarely lived by the norms of society. Titan of a journalist, champion of the underdog, and self-directed bohemian, Jane Wood Reno was a mighty personality far ahead of her time.
George Hurchalla, the grandson of Jane Wood Reno and a Florida native, is the editor of The Hell With Politics: The Life and Writings of Jane Wood Reno and the author of Going Underground: American Punk 1979–1989.
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