Helen Ramirez Odell Visitation and Chapel Service, Sunday April 3, 2022

There was a visitation at Malec and Sons Funeral Home Sunday, April 3, from 1 until 5 pm. A simple Chapel Service was held at 3 with a minister who knew Helen.

Helen's best friend, Brigid Gerace, who was with her when she died, gave a short speech talking about Helen's various passions, including having a Mother Jones statue erected in Chicago.

Helen's daughter, Moira Melendez, also spoke, saying how close she was to her mother and would miss her very much. Her husband, Paul Odell, was present and is in poor health. Several retired nurses were there as were Jesse Sharkey and Stacy Gates Davis, officers from the Chicago Teachers Union.

The interment was held on Monday, April 4, at Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery.

Helen Ramirez-Odell was born Helen Hershinow in Chicago and grew up in the Lincoln Square neighborhood of the city. She attended Loyola University Chicago and received her B.S.N. and R.N. degrees in nursing in 1964. She then worked in the Chicago Public Schools as a school nurse for over forty years until her retirement in 2011.

When she discovered, in the late 60s, that she could not make a needed purchase from Goldblatt's because they did not give women credit, she was outraged and joined Chicago NOW.

Here she became an activist for the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment, a cause she has championed to this day.

In the early 70s, she joined the Chicago Teachers Union and became a member of its Women's Rights Committee, which she chaired from 1984 to 2009. During her tenure, the Committee worked to end sexual harassment, supported women's advancement at the Washburne Trade School, sought to improve conditions and employment for women in sports, promoted women's labor history, supported women political candidates, and fought for women's health, birth control and reproductive choice, among many other issues.

In 1995 she was a Women in Labor History Project founder, later called the Working Women's History Project. During this time, she was also active in the Chicago Coalition of Labor Union Women and Cassandra, A Radical Feminist Nurses Network. She wrote and published Working Without Uniforms, the story of school nurses in Chicago from 1951 to 2001, and created a manuscript R.N. Revolution Needed, about the need for a feminist transformation of the nursing profession.

Here are some websites to learn more about this remarkable woman:

There is a resolution brought up at the Illinois House to honor her (HR787):

There will be a celebration of Helen's life on Saturday, May 14 from 11 am to 2 pm at Chief O'Neill's Restaurant, 3471 North Elston, Chicago.


May 6, 2022 at 11:22 PM

By: Linda S Fay

Helen Ramirez Odell

I met Helen at the Feminist Writers Guild in the late 70s early 80s. A stalwart supporter of women and their concerns, Helen was prepared to write, speak or support a cause. We tried most years to have lunch or breakfast on a date between our birthdays. Helen is missed.

Add your own comment (all fields are necessary)

Substance readers:

You must give your first name and last name under "Name" when you post a comment at We are not operating a blog and do not allow anonymous or pseudonymous comments. Our readers deserve to know who is commenting, just as they deserve to know the source of our news reports and analysis.

Please respect this, and also provide us with an accurate e-mail address.

Thank you,

The Editors of Substance

Your Name

Your Email

What's your comment about?

Your Comment

Please answer this to prove you're not a robot:

5 + 5 =