Anna June Jackson was born in Allegheny, PA (now part of Pittsburgh) and was studying in New York with famed acting coach Sanford Meisner by age 17. In 1944, she made her stage debut playing Anya in a Wilmington, Delaware, production of "The Cherry Orchard" and the next year played a smaller role in a Broadway production of the same play. Soon, Jackson was appearing in a new play on Broadway each year. She earned strong notices in 1948 creating the role of Nellie Ewell in Tennessee Williams' "Summer and Smoke" and for "Oh Men! Oh Women!" (1953). Jackson was nominated for a Tony Award for her work as Edward G Robinson's daughter in "Middle of the Night" (1956). Jackson also played the title role of "Major Barbara" the same year. In 1961, she played Daisy in the Broadway production of Ionesco's "Rhinoceros" starring with Wallach and Zero Mostel. The following season, she and Wallach were paired in the double bill of "The Tiger" and "The Typist", for which she won an OBIE Award. (They repeated their roles in London in 1964.) Later, Jackson won critical kudos for her turn as Ethel Rosenberg in Donald Freed's 1970 Broadway play, "Inquest". She and her husband and their daughters Roberta and Katherine were featured in a 1973 production of "The Waltz of the Toreadors" and the couple later performed "An Evening With Anne Jackson and Eli Wallach" for several years from 1977. Their last joint Broadway appearance to date was in the short-lived revival of "Cafe Crown" in the 1988-89 season.
Jackson's TV and film roles often saw her playing either warm motherly types or overbearing parents, sometimes simultaneously. She made her film debut in 1950 as Jackie in "So Young, So Bad", an independent production produced by its star Paul Henreid. Jackson and two other hopefuls, Anne Francis and Rosita (later Rita) Moreno, played prison inmates being helped by a psychiatrist. Despite the success of the picture, it was nine years before Jackson was again in front of a film camera, this time for "The Journey", in which she was one of an ensemble cast trying to leave Budapest. In 1960, she played one of her first screen mothers, as the Jewish wife of Ray Walston who chides him into letting Anthony Perkins play basketball in "Tall Story". Again, it was several years before Jackson was in film again, this time opposite Wallach, in "The Tiger Makes Out", based on their Off-Broadway success. She earned much acclaim in 1968 as the neglected spouse posing as a call girl in "The Secret Life of an American Wife". Jackson was one of the nuns involved in a Watergate-like break-in in the satirical "Nasty Habits" (1976), a psychiatrist in "The Bell Jar" (1979) and Tom Selleck's mother in "Folks!" (1992).
Jackson's work in TV dates back to 1949, with an episode of "Academy Theatre" and she worked with some regularity in the medium while most of the series were based in New York. When TV production shifted to California in the early 60s, Jackson's assignments became more sporadic. She made her TV-movie debut in "The Family Man" (CBS, 1979), and played Bella Abzug in "Out on a Limb," the 1987 ABC miniseries based on Shirley MacLaine's autobiography. In the late 70s, she did a regular stint on the soap opera "Love of Life" and in 1987 played Jason Alexander's mother in the short-lived CBS series "Everything's Relative". Jackson has occasionally appeared in TV episodes as well, and was particularly memorable in a 1977 installment of "Rhoda", in which she was a waitress who helps Rhoda realize it is all right for a woman to go out for an evening by herself.