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The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America's Shining Women (2016)

by Kate Moore

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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2,0791606,044 (4.12)165
As World War I raged across the globe, hundreds of young women toiled away at the radium-dial factories, where they painted clock faces with a mysterious new substance called radium. Assured by their bosses that the luminous material was safe, the women themselves shone brightly in the dark, covered from head to toe with the glowing dust. With such a coveted job, these "shining girls" were considered the luckiest alive--until they began to fall mysteriously ill. As the fatal poison of the radium took hold, they found themselves embroiled in one of America's biggest scandals and a groundbreaking battle for workers' rights. The Radium Girls explores the strength of extraordinary women in the face of almost impossible circumstances and the astonishing legacy they left behind.… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 164 (next | show all)
I wanted to applaud when narrator Angela Brazil, finished reading Radium Girls, like a play or a good movie had just ended. This was a rich, well written and moving book.

The women in the book suffered from radium poisoning because some people wanted to make some money. When author Kate Moore said that a factory using radium was open in the seventies I was shocked. People will get away with what you let them.

Thanks to Kate Moore, we will not forget the Radium Girls. ( )
  nab6215 | Jan 18, 2022 |
This is an engrossing horrible story about young girls exposed to radium and the corporate cover-up that followed. Just so sad what these women had to endure. The corporate greed is appalling and infuriating as they knowingly lie to the girls about the dangers of their work and continue to lie for years and years while knowing full well the dangers. A well-written book about these poor women. ( )
  Nefersw | Jan 14, 2022 |
There was a time in America when radium was regarded as not just safe but healthful. The Radium Girls is about how this "wonder chemical" fell from grace when workers painting it on clock dials began getting horrendously sick.

As she says in the Author's Note, Kate Moore set out to put a human face on this tragedy. To that end, she focused on a lot of people; however, she never elevated them beyond basic physical descriptions and, later, their specific physical ailments. Although The Radium Girls is clearly meticulously researched, it fails to bring the dial-painters to life. This, combined with numerous stylistic shortcomings, keeps me from feeling enthusiastic about The Radium Girls. This is a weak nonfiction. In the hands of different, more skilled nonfiction author, it could have been a masterpiece.

Full review on Goodreads. ( )
  Caroline77 | Jan 8, 2022 |
Sad, Infuriating, Inspirational

Dear readers, start at the end with the Author’s Note to appreciate what Kate Moore set out to accomplish and the terrific job she has done not only in bringing to our attention this wholly avoidable tragedy but more importantly in giving these young women substance and life; it’s this that truly helps us understand how deliberate, callus business decisions predicated solely on profit hurt people. In Moore’s words: “I firmly believe that when you’re entrusted to tell someone else’s true story—whether as an author, actor, or director—you have a responsibility: to do justice to those whose story it is.” This accounts for the detail she devotes to telling the stories of a handful of the scores of young women murdered—a most fitting word here—by corporate greed and deceit. At once, this book taps a range of emotions: sadness, indignation, anger, and inspiration, this last for the determination of these young women and the power of working as a group not only for personal retribution but also for the good and protection of others.

The tragedy opens in 1917 in Newark and Orange, NJ, with the hiring of young woman by the Radium Luminous Materials Corporation to paint clock and instrument dials with a radium based paint. These were high paying jobs for the times requiring the use of small, fine hair brushes. Because the paint thickened on the bristles, the process required the women to continuously clean and restore the fine point of the brushes. They did this, under instruction, by bringing the brushes to their lips, thereby ingesting minute amounts of radium. Additionally, while they worked in a generally clean environment compared to the industrial settings of the day, radium power nonetheless got pretty much everywhere, in the air, on their hands, hair, and clothing. As a result, these women literally glowed in the dark. Management constantly reassured the women that radium was not only harmless but, in fact, was good for their health, when they knew otherwise and even took precautions to protect male lab workers. Later, another operation opened in Ottawa, Il, where the methods and reassurances of the company officials were the same.

Then, over time, these women began to experience problems, most dental in the beginning. They visited dentists. They had aching teeth extracted. The extraction sites didn’t heel. They bled. They lost fragments of their jawbones. They experienced more problems throughout their bodies that mimicked arthritis. Because dentists and doctors were unfamiliar with problems and because these medical people didn’t exchange information nor had professional information readily available to them, these women found themselves subjected to all manner of invasive procedures, none of which brought them any relief. Only later, in the 1920s, when a few doctors and researchers began to understand the underlying cause of their maladies and developed tests to detect radium poisoning did the true nature of their illnesses become known to them and the general public. However, making people not only aware of the problem but requiring companies to protect workers and compensate those condemned to early and incredibly painful deaths took nearly two decades of constant battle against the companies inflicting the damage and an antiquated system of labor laws. In the end, the war waged by these effected woman and the handful of medical and legal experts who came to their aid resulted in greater protection for workers not only working with radioactive materials but in all industries.

What makes the story so remarkable is that a group of suffering woman who faced early and certain death were able to bring about monumental changes for the better. We all owe them tremendous gratitude. And herein lies the merit of Kate Moore’s book, because in this volume we get to know who these women were and where to direct our thanks.
( )
  write-review | Nov 4, 2021 |
Sad, Infuriating, Inspirational

Dear readers, start at the end with the Author’s Note to appreciate what Kate Moore set out to accomplish and the terrific job she has done not only in bringing to our attention this wholly avoidable tragedy but more importantly in giving these young women substance and life; it’s this that truly helps us understand how deliberate, callus business decisions predicated solely on profit hurt people. In Moore’s words: “I firmly believe that when you’re entrusted to tell someone else’s true story—whether as an author, actor, or director—you have a responsibility: to do justice to those whose story it is.” This accounts for the detail she devotes to telling the stories of a handful of the scores of young women murdered—a most fitting word here—by corporate greed and deceit. At once, this book taps a range of emotions: sadness, indignation, anger, and inspiration, this last for the determination of these young women and the power of working as a group not only for personal retribution but also for the good and protection of others.

The tragedy opens in 1917 in Newark and Orange, NJ, with the hiring of young woman by the Radium Luminous Materials Corporation to paint clock and instrument dials with a radium based paint. These were high paying jobs for the times requiring the use of small, fine hair brushes. Because the paint thickened on the bristles, the process required the women to continuously clean and restore the fine point of the brushes. They did this, under instruction, by bringing the brushes to their lips, thereby ingesting minute amounts of radium. Additionally, while they worked in a generally clean environment compared to the industrial settings of the day, radium power nonetheless got pretty much everywhere, in the air, on their hands, hair, and clothing. As a result, these women literally glowed in the dark. Management constantly reassured the women that radium was not only harmless but, in fact, was good for their health, when they knew otherwise and even took precautions to protect male lab workers. Later, another operation opened in Ottawa, Il, where the methods and reassurances of the company officials were the same.

Then, over time, these women began to experience problems, most dental in the beginning. They visited dentists. They had aching teeth extracted. The extraction sites didn’t heel. They bled. They lost fragments of their jawbones. They experienced more problems throughout their bodies that mimicked arthritis. Because dentists and doctors were unfamiliar with problems and because these medical people didn’t exchange information nor had professional information readily available to them, these women found themselves subjected to all manner of invasive procedures, none of which brought them any relief. Only later, in the 1920s, when a few doctors and researchers began to understand the underlying cause of their maladies and developed tests to detect radium poisoning did the true nature of their illnesses become known to them and the general public. However, making people not only aware of the problem but requiring companies to protect workers and compensate those condemned to early and incredibly painful deaths took nearly two decades of constant battle against the companies inflicting the damage and an antiquated system of labor laws. In the end, the war waged by these effected woman and the handful of medical and legal experts who came to their aid resulted in greater protection for workers not only working with radioactive materials but in all industries.

What makes the story so remarkable is that a group of suffering woman who faced early and certain death were able to bring about monumental changes for the better. We all owe them tremendous gratitude. And herein lies the merit of Kate Moore’s book, because in this volume we get to know who these women were and where to direct our thanks.
( )
  write-review | Nov 4, 2021 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Moore, Kateprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Brazil, AngelaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
I shall never forget you... Hearts that know you love you And lips that have given you laughter Have gone to their lifetime of grief and roses Searching for dreams that they lost In the world, far away from your walls.   ---Ottawa High School yearbook, 1925
Dedication
For all the dial-painters And those who loved them.
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The scientist had forgotten all about the radium.
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As World War I raged across the globe, hundreds of young women toiled away at the radium-dial factories, where they painted clock faces with a mysterious new substance called radium. Assured by their bosses that the luminous material was safe, the women themselves shone brightly in the dark, covered from head to toe with the glowing dust. With such a coveted job, these "shining girls" were considered the luckiest alive--until they began to fall mysteriously ill. As the fatal poison of the radium took hold, they found themselves embroiled in one of America's biggest scandals and a groundbreaking battle for workers' rights. The Radium Girls explores the strength of extraordinary women in the face of almost impossible circumstances and the astonishing legacy they left behind.

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