Peggy McGivern

Peggy McGivern

Peggy McGivern meeting with Dr. David Brooks and Sam Kushner, Delano, ca. 1966. Photo by Emmon Clarke.

Margaret “Peggy” McGivern led a long and illustrious career based on service and goodwill. Born in Marengo, Iowa on May 5, 1933, Peggy McGivern was raised on a farm south of the city and was the youngest of six children born to Peter and Loretta McGivern.


 Though not much is known about her early life, she graduated from Marengo High School in 1951, became certified as a registered nurse at Iowa City Mercy Hospital School of Nursing in 1954, and in 1958, she received a Bachelors of Science degree from the University of Iowa.  

David Brooks and Peggy McGivern standing outside of the Farmworker Health Clinic, Delano, ca.1966. Photo by Emmon Clarke.

Nurse Peggy McGivern and an unidentified doctor visit a patient at the clinic.
Peggy McGivern and a doctor examining a patient, Delano, ca. 1966

Peggy McGivern was the founding nurse and Jerry Lackner was the doctor from San Jose who volunteered his services on most weekends. Another nurse, Marion Moses, joined the clinic and other doctors also volunteered their time traveling from San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Jose, and other nearby cities. The clinic was housed in a trailer located at Arroyo Camp, the strike headquarters of the NFWA. After the merger of AWOC (Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee) and the NFWA (National Farm Workers ) in late 1966 into UFWOC (United Farm Workers Organizing Committee, AFL-CIO), Arroyo Camp was shut down and the clinic relocated to the new property, Forty Acres.

During the 1960s-1970s, McGivern became involved with the Farm Workers Association (FWA) and later the United Farm Workers (UFW). In October 1965, McGivern began volunteering by using her medical expertise to help farmworkers and by 1966, she planned to build a modern, state-of-the-art clinic for farmworkers, an extraordinary and seemingly insurmountable feat that was eventually achieved and for which she was on-call 24 hours a day.

McGivern also served as Head Nurse and personally attended to César Chávez during the March and Pilgrimage to Sacramento. Her expertise and skill set was not limited to the medical field—McGivern also directed the UFW’s grape boycott in Buffalo, New York.

Here, her life changed forever when she met and married César J. Pérez, with whom she had one son—César J. Pérez II. Peggy McGivern died peacefully at age 88 on August 24, 2021 at Sea Cliff Healthcare Center in Huntington Beach, California and was interred in her hometown of Marengo, Iowa.

Peggy McGivern inspects the feet of a marcher during the march to Sacramento, 1966. Photo by John Kouns.


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