Contains a transcribed copy of Lucille Kendall’s 1976-1977 interviews with Helene Powell covering her involvement with the
International Longshoremen’s and Warehousemen’s Union (ILWU), Local 6, in San Francisco as a steward and member of the Legislative
Committee and Executive Board. The interview also covers Powell’s appointment as the ILWU’s International Representative to
Los Angeles in 1943. Supplementary materials include newspaper clippings, ILWU-related ephemera, photocopies of a speech given
by Powell, a transcript of a radio interview she participated in, and a
Life magazine article featuring a photograph of Powell.
Helene Powell was born on April 17, 1919, and raised by a close-knit family in a small black community in San Jose. When Powell
turned seventeen, her family moved to San Francisco, where she attended college preparatory courses at Lowell High School.
After high school, Powell enrolled in University of California, Berkeley, earning a bachelor’s degree in Spanish. At U.C.
Berkeley, Powell served as president of the Negro Students Club and participated in the Associated Student Government’s Committee
for Peace, California Youth Legislature, and Student Workers Federation. Upon graduating in 1941, Powell took a job with Alexander
Balart Coffee Company in San Francisco, participating in a three-day strike against the company over wages. Powell’s involvement
in the strike prompted her to become active in the International Longshoremen’s and Warehousemen’s Union, Local 6. As a member
of Local 6, Powell frequently served as shop stewardess, spoke at membership meetings, and conducted house meetings. In 1943
Powell was appointed as the ILWU's International Representative to Los Angeles. With Local 26, she organized aircraft workers
at Aero Reclamation Company. In Los Angeles Powell became particularly active in organizing African American and Mexican American
women warehouse workers and in housing reform for minorities. Powell also served as an election worker for the CIO Political
Action Committee, registering black voters around Los Angeles’ Central Avenue. In the mid-1940s Powell returned to San Francisco
and Local 6, becoming active in the Legislative Committee. As a member of the committee, Powell took up a variety of issues,
including Local 6’s involvement in the war effort, gender discrimination, rent control, and housing reform.
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