- Beth T. Bates
Wilson, Halena (1895–15 April 1975), labor organizer, was born in Denver, Colorado. Little is known about her family or her early years. Wilson, whose first name was sometimes spelled “Helena,” was educated in the Denver public schools and then moved to Chicago, where she became a leading organizer and mentor among the scores of women who made the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters (BSCP) a success within black communities. She began her rise to prominence within the BSCP in the late 1920s after her husband, Benjamin, joined the union. The BSCP had run into trouble in Chicago, as a majority of middle-class black leaders believed porters should not challenge the antiunion Pullman Sleeping Car Company, the country’s largest employer of black men. To win the hearts and minds of the larger black community, the BSCP relied on the efforts of progressive black clubwomen, Pullman maids, other African America trade union women, and the wives of Pullman porters....