Helen Chavez, the widow of Cesar Chavez, who aided the farmworkers union her husband founded by keeping the books, walking the picket line and being arrested — all while raising their eight children — died Monday at a Bakersfield, Calif., hospital. She was 88.
A statement from the Cesar Chavez Foundation said she died of natural causes and was surrounded by family members.
Though notoriously reticent and uncomfortable with media attention, Chavez sometimes found herself in the spotlight alongside her husband, who led the United Farm Workers of America for 31 years. In 1978 she was arrested and convicted with her husband for picketing a cantaloupe field where workers were represented by the Teamsters Union.
Yet at the height of the movement, she remained in her husband’s shadow. She seemed to push past nervousness whenever she spoke publicly. “I want to see justice for the farmworkers,” she told a reporter for the Los Angeles Times in 1976. “I was a farmworker and I know what it is like to work in the fields.”
The Chavez’s were another major window for me, in early life. They helped me to see past my own privilege, and I was honoured to help work with and for their causes when I was a teenager. Goodbye, Helen, and thank you.
Ditto(-ish) here: A mixture of high schooling, and later post-University living, in semi-rural areas is when just what the UFW and Mr Chavez were dealing with was understood.
I admit that I’d never really thought about it, but I suppose that also applies to me.
Good for you! Can’t say I did anything other than follow at least some of the boycotts (for what it’s worth, I was — and still am — more actively supporting Greenpeace, the ACLU, and later, Amnesty International).
(Missing last paragraph…)
Goodbye Ms Chavez. I never met you or Mr Chavez, but I certainly appreciate what was accomplished and attempted.
Ice Swimmer says
This is the first time I’ve taken the time to see who Cesar and Helen Chavez were (they weren’t part of the history curriculum in Finland in the late 1980s/early 90s). They took on huge challenges in a country very hostile towards trade unions. The history of labour movements has upsides and downsides, but so much good has come from it. Thanks to the policies demanded by and set up in response to the labour movement here, I’m alive.
Goodbye, Ms Chavez!
They also had to fight the sweetheart deals the Teamsters signed with growers, so not all labor organizations were on the side of light in this.