Jane Freeman with her son, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman, in 2013. (Jim Gehrz/Star Tribune via AP)

Jane Freeman, a former Minnesota first lady who helped her husband, Orville Freeman, helped build Minnesota’s modern Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, died March 23 at her home in Minneapolis. She was 96.

She had a heart ailment, said her daughter, Constance Freeman.

The Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party was created by the 1944 merger of the state’s Democratic and Farmer-Labor parties. She and Orville Freeman were instrumental in its growth, along with future senator and vice president Hubert H. Humphrey.

Orville Freeman was governor from 1955 to 1961 and was U.S. agriculture secretary in the John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson administrations. During her husband’s political career, Mrs. Freeman did volunteer work with the United Nations and UNICEF.

She was president of the National Girl Scout Council from 1978 to 1984 and was a past president of the Woman’s National Democratic Club.

Jane Charlotte Shields was born in Winston-Salem, N.C., on May 25, 1921. She finished high school at 15 in Minneapolis, and she graduated at 19 from the University of Minnesota with a bachelor’s degree in political science. She met her future husband at the university.


Jane Freeman in 2013. (Jim Gehrz/Star Tribune via AP)

He died in 2003 after 61 years of marriage. Survivors include two children, Constance Freeman of Rockville, Md., and Michael Freeman of Minneapolis; five grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.