Muckraker Rachel Scott is the latest social critic to get burned in her political baptism of fire. After publishing a critically applauded book Muscle and Blood (PEOPLE, Nov. 11, 1974), on the appalling hazards to which tens of thousands of industrial workers in the U.S. are still exposed, Scott was appointed Director of Health and Safety for the Illinois Industrial Commission.
She left her job as a Baltimore Sun labor reporter at the behest of Gov. Daniel Walker to establish a model program in Illinois. She says, “I was told the governor wanted a showcase of industrial safety.” The diminutive (5’3″), habitually blue-jeaned 27-year-old woman assumed the $25,000-a-year post in December. Wearing her intensity on the sleeve of her fringed buckskin jacket, she immediately impressed experienced safety engineers with her ambitious proposals to improve workers’ conditions. But she says, “The fact that I’m a woman upset some people. The fact that I look about ten years younger than I am doesn’t help either.”
Scott was unable to get a personal hearing from the governor about her program. When the budget she and commission chairman Melvin Rosen-bloom submitted was not forwarded to the state assembly, she resigned in anger, after serving just eight weeks.
“Nothing was changed during my time,” she complains, “except a lot of people’s hopes were raised. But I hope a lot of people’s consciousnesses were raised too.” Blaming the governor, she says bitterly, “Walker is Walker-oriented. As far as he was concerned, it was just another boring, mundane program.” The governor’s office comments, “As dollars grew scarce, we thought it best to turn OSHA [Occupational Safety and Health Administration] responsibilities back to the federal government.”
Not much older but considerably wiser, Scott despairs that the “system” could ever rectify the industrial horrors she has documented. Admitting her naïveté now, she says ruefully, “It takes a different type of personality to be an administrator than a muckraker.” Undaunted, she is moving to Washington—”I haven’t unpacked for four years”—and pondering a new book about abuses inflicted on mental patients.