Helen Chávez, labor activist, passes away at 88

Helen Fabela Chávez, labor activist and widow of United Farm Workers of America president César Chávez, died Monday afternoon in a Bakersfield hospital at age 88.

With a number of her seven surviving children, 31 grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren at her side, the Chávez matriarch departed leaving a legacy that shifted the landscape of labor rights in America. Leading farmworkers who united with her husband to demand humane working conditions and fair wages, Chávez helped define a movement and establish a benchmark for workers’ rights.

In a tribute to Helen Chavéz in 2010, LeRoy Chatfield, founder and publisher of the Farmworker Movement Documentation Project, remembered her impact:

“Helen Chavéz is the only woman I know who was arrested and jailed for three days for shouting “Huelga!” on a farmworker picket line, had her picture taken with Charlton Heston, became close friends with Ethel Kennedy, had a meeting with the president of the United States, and a private audience with the Pope.”

A press release from the UFW said plans for commemoration and services would be released Tuesday.