LaborNet - Internet Board
Global online communication since 1991 for a democratic, independent labor movement
Home | Current Blog | News Archive | Video | Resources | Back Links | About LaborNet

image image

Exhibit Unveiling for Karen Silkwood
Source Shannon Harris
Date 08/11/05/16:06

WHAT: Exhibit Unveiling for Karen Silkwood
WHERE: Museum of the Gulf Coast
WHEN: November 16, 2008 2:00 p.m.
CONTACT: Shannon Harris, Director
(409) 984-6444

Museum Remembers Karen Silkwood

Port Arthur, TX November 13, 2008 will mark the 34th anniversary of the untimely death of noted union whistleblower Karen Silkwood. The Port Arthur Historical Society is proud to announce events at the Museum of the Gulf Coast honoring the memory of this activist and southeast Texas native.

Karen Gay Silkwood was born in Longview, Texas on February 19, 1946 and was raised in Nederland, Texas. After graduating from high school, she studied medical technology at the Lamar campus in Beaumont and married William Meadows in 1965. The couple had three children: Kristi, Michael and Dawn. After divorcing Meadows in 1972, Silkwood moved to Oklahoma and got a job as a chemical technician at the Kerr-McGee plutonium fuels production plant in Crescent, Oklahoma.

She soon became an active member of the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers Union (OCAW) where she was an advocate for plant safety. During the week prior to her death, she was reportedly gathering evidence for the Union to support her claim that Kerr-McGee was negligent in maintaining plant safety, and at the same time, she herself was the victim of a number of unexplained exposures to plutonium.

On November 13, 1974, Silkwood had an appointment with a union staff representative and a New York Times investigative reporter. At this meeting, she was to provide documentation to the reporter, showing that her charges that Kerr-McGee had been negligent in quality control and had falsified records were justified. Silkwood was on her way to this meeting when she died in what seems to have been a one-car crash. The documents she was to have turned over to the reporter were never found.

Karen Silkwood, who died at age 28, was buried in Danville Cemetery in Kilgore, Texas. Since her death, her story has achieved worldwide fame as the subject of many books, magazine and newspaper articles, and even a major motion picture and she is still considered a martyr by labor union activists around the world. The saga of Karen Silkwood continued for years after her death. Her estate filed a civil suit against Kerr-McGee for the alleged inadequate health and safety program that led to Silkwood's exposure to plutonium. In 1986, twelve years after her death, the suit was headed for retrial when it was finally settled out of court for $1.3 million.

On Saturday, November 15 at 2:00 p.m., the Museum will host a free film screening of the 1983 Academy Award nominated motion picture Silkwood starring Meryl Streep. On Sunday, November 16 at 2:00 p.m. the public is invited to an induction ceremony and unveiling of a permanent exhibit honoring Karen Silkwood in the Notable People Gallery. A screening of the A&E documentary Contaminated: The Karen Silkwood Story will follow the unveiling.

For more information about the Museum of the Gulf Coast please visit or call 409.982.7000. The Museum is located at 700 Procter Street in downtown Port Arthur and is open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. on Sunday.

Shannon L. Harris
Museum of the Gulf Coast
700 Procter Street
Port Arthur, TX 77640

[View the list]