Chenevix, Helen Sophia (1886–1963), trade unionist, suffragist, and social campaigner, was born 13 November 1886, at Ivy Bank, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, only child of Henry Chenevix and Charlotte Chenevix (née Ormsby). Educated at Alexandra College, Dublin, she went on to TCD, where in 1909 she graduated BA. Early on she became involved in labour and social issues, though it was as a suffragist that she first came to prominence. In 1911 she co-founded, with Louie Bennett (qv) the Irishwomen's Suffrage Federation. A politically independent, non-militant organisation, it linked a variety of suffrage societies throughout the country, and was subsequently instrumental in the formation of Dublin's Irish Women's Reform League and Belfast's Women's Suffrage Society. During the passage of the Home Rule Bill in 1912 she actively campaigned for the inclusion of women's suffrage as part of the bill, and following the implementation of the 1913 Cat and Mouse Act in England she was among the Irish delegates invited by the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies to take part in the Caxton Hall conference. She later lobbied the lord lieutenant on the treatment of Belfast suffragists who had suffered under the enforcement of the act in Ireland.
Chenevix's interest in the conditions of working women stemmed in part from her attendance, as a young girl, at a lecture by Dr R. M. Gwynn entitled ‘Women and children in industry’. According to her own account this had a profound impact on her work, as did her Christianity; she later said: ‘no matter how secular my work might be, I always worked under a sense of guidance’ (Jones, 161). In 1916 she assisted Bennett in the reorganisation of the Irish Women Workers’ Union (IWWU). Until her retirement in 1957 her work as an executive member of the IWWU occupied the greater part of her public life, though she received only a nominal payment. She often travelled the country, meeting trade councils and workers, and when Bennett was absent she took full responsibility for negotiations with employers. She regarded the IWWU as an organisation that should look beyond its members’ immediate working conditions and tackle wider social issues. Her influence in the IWWU is reflected in the establishment in 1941 of the Torch and Distaff Guild to provide assistance for unemployed members. During the 1920s Chenevix campaigned vigorously for the school-leaving age to be raised to sixteen, and argued that poorer families should be financially compensated by the government for the consequent loss of earnings. She also worked for state-sponsored school meals, better provision for playgrounds in the inner city, a reduction in retail prices, and (as a member of Dublin corporation) improved housing.
Having served as vice-president of the Irish Trade Union Congress (ITUC) in 1949, she was appointed president in 1951. In May 1954 the IWWU urged Chenevix to allow her name to go forward for a seanad nomination, but she refused. After Bennett's retirement in 1955, Chenevix succeeded her as general secretary of the IWWU. Her leadership, which stressed the importance of a collective contribution from members, differed in many ways from Bennett's. She served for many years on the national executive of the ITUC; her membership of its education committee led her to support the People's College. A member of the Bray and district trades council, she was also a councillor on Dublin corporation, and served on several committees, among them the child welfare committee and the committee for the National Maternity Hospital; in 1947–9 she was vice-chairman on the scholarships committee. She was also associated with the Fellowship of Reconciliation, the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, and the Irish Pacifist Movement, of which she was vice-president. Following her retirement from the IWWU in 1957, she concentrated on working for peace and nuclear disarmament. She died unmarried 4 March 1963 in Dublin, and was buried in Deansgrange cemetery.