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The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of…
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The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America's Shining Women (Bestselling Historical Nonfiction Gift for Men and Women) (original 2016; edition 2017)

by Kate Moore

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3,1371924,331 (4.13)212
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)
Member:AnnEly
Title:The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America's Shining Women (Bestselling Historical Nonfiction Gift for Men and Women)
Authors:Kate Moore
Info:Sourcebooks, Kindle Edition, 506 pages
Collections:Read, Your library
Rating:****
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The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America's Shining Women by Kate Moore (2016)

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Showing 1-5 of 195 (next | show all)
The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women by Kate Moore was one of the most inspirational books I’ve ever read (listened to, actually). Detailing the lives and horrible deaths of radium-dial painters in New Jersey and Illinois, the story is one that captivated the world and the courts, and which opened the door for occupational safety standards in workplaces across the United States. The women who waged this battle suffered horrible lives and deaths but did so to help others in similar industries. I admired them greatly and wept copiously during the last chapters of the book.

Radium-dial painting is the act of detailing clocks and aeronautical dials of various sorts with luminous paint, which is made up of radium and water. The girls were encouraged to put the paintbrushes in their mouths to keep them narrow enough to do the meticulous work. That’s right: they were urged to put paintbrushes coated with radioactive ingredients into their mouths.
They died. And before they died their teeth fell out, their gums grew abcesses, their jawbones pierced the skin of their mouths and fell apart. They were troubled with huge sarcomas on every part of their body. Their hips disintegrated until the girls had legs of different length and could walk only with a cane. Their pain turned to agony. They couldn’t eat. They became skeletal versions of their younger, happier selves. It was awful to hear about; I can’t imagine suffering such anguish.

The management of the radium companies were the worst people I’ve ever met in a book, both fictional and real. Snow White’s horrid stepmother was more likeable. (I’m not kidding.) They refused to help the girls that their negligence had murdered. They refused to believe that radium could cause harm. Even when they found out that indeed, radium was poisonous, they didn’t care. They lied and cheated and manipulated as young women lost their lives in direst agony. I have never been as angered by a book.

Despite the deaths, the families left without their daughters, wives, mothers, aunts, the friends left behind to mourn them, the book was a real inspiration. Even though Kate Moore’s writing left something to be desired, and though the narrator was frankly dreadful, the story captivated me. I hope that I can learn to be as brave and as determined as the women I met in this book. May they all rest in peace.

Edit: One of the little clocks in my bedroom has a luminous dial. It used to belong to my grandmother, and passed to me after her death. This little clock that glows at night is old enough that it probably passed through the hands of a radium-dial painter and may even have been one of the clock faces that contributed in a small way to a young woman slowly being poisoned by radium. I will treasure it all the more. ( )
  ahef1963 | May 5, 2024 |
Reasonably well-written and well-researched, if sometimes a bit over sensational in its presentation. Unfortunately, the story is not terribly interesting in its nitty-gritty details. Once you know the basic outline of what happened here, all the ins and outs of what, exactly, happened to each of the girls and how, exactly, the trials played out is a trifle tedious. I'm torn about books like this: I think it's important to tell such stories and to honor the unfair and unjust treatment ordinary folks by doing so, but the reading experience also felt kind of without purpose after a certain point. ( )
  lycomayflower | May 5, 2024 |
The fantastic and heartbreaking story of the women who worked with radium paint and paid the price.it is very well researched and reads like a novel. The author builds sympathy for the characters and then relates the horrifying things that happen to their bodies and the corporate greed that allows it to happen. I sometimes felt the author could have let the story speak for itself more, but all in all an excellent book ( )
  cspiwak | Mar 6, 2024 |
This is so tragic and grotesque and the epitome of a capitalist hellscape. The way these women had to fight to their early graves for the companies to take responsibility for their clearly disintegrating bodies boggles the mind. What a strange coincidence that all of the women who worked for us have had their jaw bones fall out, couldn't be us.
I had heard that this was a bit repetitive, and that is certainly true. This could have been much shorter and tighter if we didn't have to relive the trauma of each woman over and over. ( )
  KallieGrace | Jan 18, 2024 |
Non-Fiction can typically be hard for me to read and finish reading because it’s hard for me to stay focused on it as opposed to a fictional story. So I am usually wary about picking up non-fiction, but with Kate Moore’s The Radium Girls, I thankfully had a different than typical experience. The way the story was written not only kept my attention but had me interested in what would happen next as I had never before heard of the so called Radium Girls and their story.

I listened to this on audiobook for the most part, though I did read parts from the physical copy. I thought the audiobook was done well! I mainly read the physical copy towards the end because I knew I could read it more quickly that way. I did also enjoy having the physical copy on hand because it has pictures of some of the girls in the middle of the book along with some of the moments mentioned like the company photograph and moments from court. At the end of the physical copy is included a reading group guide, which I always appreciate. There is also a notes section that tells where the quotes from each chapter come from and a selected bibliography that I found to be interesting.

As I read the book and came across more and more ways that people were using radium and glorying it as a miracle drug, I got more and more horrified, of course now knowing the effects of radium. Then after certain groups and people became aware of these dangers and still continued using radium in the same ways with no precaution and putting other peoples lives in mortal danger, I became much more horrified and honestly angry. I was astounded at how truly villainous the U.S. Radium Company, and the executives and managers therein, continued to show itself.

And even knowing already how vicious radium poisoning is, I was still shocked at some of the experiences some of these girls went through. And that even after everything with Orange, the Ottawa studio kept going, and then with everything after Ottawa and the big case that finally brought justice to those girls, the Luminous Processes company kept going (and in the same town!) causing even further radium poisoning cases. It was at least heartening to hear how the press coverage, testimonies, and other court proceedings arising from the Ottawa case brought about some of the first safety laws for employees and contributed to caution and changes in later events involving nuclear testing and fallout.

I also really appreciate how in this book, Moore primarily focused on bringing the story of each of these girls to the forefront with their own words from sources like diaries and correspondences as well as details about the girls from relatives and others who knew them. The authors note at the end mentions how before this book, the only things available about the radium girls were more focused on the cases and legalese. These were girls who fought hard to tell their own stories, so I am glad that Kate Moore found them and put them together in this book.

Sadly, this is yet another instance of history that a lot of people don’t know about, and I was included before reading about it here. I would highly recommend this book and was glad for the chance to learn about these amazingly courageous women and their fight for justice. ( )
  rianainthestacks | Nov 5, 2023 |
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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 of 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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(Prologue) The scientist had forgotten all about the radium.
Katherine Schaub had a jaunty spring in her step as she walked the brief four blocks to work.
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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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