Seated at the graveside service for slain farmworker Rufino Contreras are United Farm Workers President Cesar Chavez and his wife, Helen, on Feb. 14, 1979.
Don Bartletti/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Helen Chavez, the widow of civil rights activist Cesar Chavez, died Monday at a hospital in Bakersfield, Calif., at the age of 88, the Los Angeles Times reports.

According to a statement from the Cesar Chavez Foundation, Helen Chavez died of natural causes, surrounded by family.


Chavez was known for helping her husband with the farmworkers union he founded—the National Farm Workers Association, now the United Farm Workers of America—keeping books, walking the picket line and even being arrested herself while raising their eight children, the Times reports.

She was, the Times notes, uncomfortable with media attention but still sometimes found herself thrust in the center of it alongside her husband, who led the union for 31 years.

“I want to see justice for the farmworkers,” she told a reporter for the Times in 1976, the site notes. “I was a farmworker and I know what it is like to work in the fields.”

Born Helen Fabela on Jan. 21, 1928, Chavez met her future husband at an ice cream parlor in Delano, Calif., in the early 1940s. The two were married in 1948.


Cesar Chavez died in 1993. The following year, Helen Chavez accepted the Medal of Freedom that he’d been awarded by President Bill Clinton.

Chavez is survived by seven of her children and numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren.


Read more at the Los Angeles Times.

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