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Helen Fabela Chavez

Born on January 21, 1928, in Brawley, California, Helen Chavez grew up in a converted barn near the Central Valley town of McFarland, California, and in nearby Delano, where she dropped out of high school to support her family by working in the fields. She met her husband, Cesar Chavez, in Delano while they were both laboring as farm workers in the mid-1940s. Helen and Cesar corresponded while he served in the Navy and married upon his discharge in 1948.

Helen, with a growing family that eventually numbered eight children, moved frequently with her husband when in the 1950s he organized the most effective Latino civil rights group of that period. Cesar Chavez’s decision, along with his wife, to resign from that job in 1962, and move to Delano to begin building what became the United Farm Workers meant the family gave up its middle-class lifestyle for a life of self-imposed poverty. Helen went back to work in the fields to help the family survive while her husband travelled the Central Valley recruiting farm workers. She also cared for their children.

When the Delano Grape Strike started in 1965, Helen took over management of the Farm Workers Credit Union, and worked full time at the union office while maintaining a home life. She continued serving the Farm Worker Movement for decades. Helen still lives at the National Chavez Center in Keene, California.