Keep Me in the Loop!

Anna Andreini-Brophy played historic roles with Cesar Chavez, UFW since ‘60s

She dedicated much of her life to Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers, laboring for nothing and playing vital roles in advancing the farm worker movement. The UFW is mourning the passing of Anna Andreini-Brophy on Nov. 16 in her longtime home of Phoenix, Ariz.

A child of poor immigrants, Anna was born in Brooklyn in 1934. She eventually moved to a New York City apartment facing Central Park and advised the prestigious Charles Stewart Mott Foundation on how to invest. There were few if any women in foundation work then. Her aim during the 1960s was experimenting with innovative funding “no one else would touch.”

Anna researched sex education, helped set up one of the first suicide prevention hot lines in New York City and issued a grant helping a church provide medical care for prostitutes through mobile health clinics.

Anna met Cesar Chavez in June 1968. The UFW New York boycott staff met in her Park Avenue apartment. When he left, Cesar forgot his jacket. Anna called him and he said, “That’s okay. It means I’m supposed to come back.” He did, countless times.

Anna sought funds for the movement’s tax-exempt community programs, what today is the Cesar Chavez Foundation, tapping her foundation network. It was initially a hard sell in the liberal realm of philanthropy. “For many New Yorkers they were farm workers out in California picking whatever.”

She persisted. Anna brought colleagues to Delano, Calif. Grants followed to the Chavez foundation. Anna forged lifelong bonds with Cesar, his wife, Helen, and their eight children. Most philanthropists viewed union leaders as special interests. Anna knew Cesar lived a life of poverty and was genuine.

Anna raised more than $30 million for the movement. She helped its non-profit arm acquire a big brownstone to house boycotters on Manhattan’s West Side. Its sale years later underwrote the original non-profit program that today has seen Chavez foundation build and manage 5,000 units of high quality affordable housing covering four dozen communities in four states.

Cesar Chavez often journeyed to New York as the late-‘60s grape boycott grew. Anna set up meetings. Feminist leader Gloria Steinem was recruited. Anna brought Catholic Worker leader Dorothy Day to her apartment to meet with Cesar. Anna convinced author and naturalist Peter Matthiessen to visit Delano for an article in the New Yorker magazine. It turned into a moving 1969 biography, Sal Si Puedes: Cesar Chavez and the New American Revolution.

She worked full time with Cesar, frequently traveling to Delano and later the Salinas Valley during the 1970 lettuce strike, and to Phoenix, when Cesar fasted there for 24 days in 1972. She worked many years with the movement for no pay.

Anna joined boycott picket lines outside supermarkets. She dressed in her minks, sneaking into the exclusive Waldorf Astoria Hotel to place UFW leaflets on tables at a Republican function before being removed by intimidating security guards.

One of the biggest Salinas Valley vegetable growers to sign “sweetheart” pacts with the Teamsters union in 1970 was owned by giant United Brands, which controlled Chiquita bananas. Cesar dispatched Anna to visit United Brands. So she donned minks and a fancy dress and boldly strolled into corporate headquarters on Park Avenue asking for CEO Eli Black. Company executives phoned Black in Europe. Anna expressed hope the UFW could avoid boycotting Chiquita bananas. After Anna set up a meeting with Black and Cesar, and joined them at his Connecticut home, the United Brands’ lettuce subsidiary broke its Teamsters contract and signed with the UFW.

Anna created and for years oversaw out of her Park Avenue apartment the UFW’s direct mail fundraising, a new phenomenon in the early ‘70s. She built the union’s extensive base of mostly small contributors that endures. The revenue helped the UFW survive tough times.

She worked with Cesar at La Paz, new UFW headquarters in the Tehachapi Mountain town of Keene, Calif. She registered voters on Arizona Indian reservations during a UFW political campaign and constantly traveled across California in 1973, distributing strike benefits during big grape walkouts. When Anna remarried in 1973, she honeymooned in England to meet with grocery store managers over the second grape boycott.

Anna helped run a 1974 UFW lemon strike near Yuma, Ariz., handling logistics and strike benefits. In 1981, she married Frank Brophy Jr., from a prominent Arizona ranching family. Cesar and Helen Chavez attended the ceremony.

Anna Andreini-Brophy was preceded in death by her husband, Frank Brophy Jr., her son Bruce Wollman and her step-daughter Julia Brophy. Anna is survived by three children, Jane Kunde (Michael), Gary Wollman (Julie) and Jeffrey Wollman (Suzanne), five step-daughters, eight grandchildren plus great-grandchildren , nieces , nephews and other much loved friends and family.

Image of Cesar Chavez and Anna Andreini-Brophy promoting the lettuce boycott in the early 1970s.