The first woman to win a statewide election in Tennessee, Jane G. Eskind was raised and educated in Louisville, Kentucky. She attended Brandeis University, married Richard Eskind, completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Louisville, and settled in Nashville in 1956. Following the birth of a daughter, Ellen, and a son, Billy, Eskind commenced an activist career as lobbyist for the Tennessee League of Women Voters from 1964 to 1969. She became a Democratic Party activist after deciding the nonpartisan position of the League hindered its efforts.
From her beginnings as a campaign worker and member of the Democratic Women's club, her participation in party matters accelerated in the 1970s. In 1972 and 1976 Eskind represented Tennessee on the Democratic National Platform Committee. In 1974 she won election to the Democratic State Executive Committee. Eskind made her first bid for public office in 1978, and by winning the Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate seat held by Republican Howard Baker Jr., she became the first woman to win either the Democratic or Republican nomination for statewide office. She did not defeat Baker in November.
In 1980 Eskind won a seat on the Public Service Commission, the first woman to win a statewide election in Tennessee. She later served as commission chair. In the 1986 Democratic primary for governor, Eskind placed second behind Ned McWherter, and in a 1987 special election she made an unsuccessful bid for Congress. In 1994 she became the first woman to chair the Tennessee Democratic Party.
Within the party, Eskind has also been president of the Democratic Women's Club, a member of the Democratic House and Senate Council, the Tennessee Democratic Finance Council, the National Finance Committee, and the National Finance Council for President Clinton. She sat on the board of the Tennessee Federation of Democratic Women and functioned as a trustee of the National Victory Fund.more » « less