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

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The incredible true story of the women who fought America's Undark danger The Curies' newly discovered element of radium makes gleaming headlines across the nation as the fresh face of beauty, and wonder drug of the medical community. From body lotion to tonic water, the popular new element shines bright in the otherwise dark years of the First World War.Meanwhile, hund The incredible true story of the women who fought America's Undark danger The Curies' newly discovered element of radium makes gleaming headlines across the nation as the fresh


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The incredible true story of the women who fought America's Undark danger The Curies' newly discovered element of radium makes gleaming headlines across the nation as the fresh face of beauty, and wonder drug of the medical community. From body lotion to tonic water, the popular new element shines bright in the otherwise dark years of the First World War.Meanwhile, hund The incredible true story of the women who fought America's Undark danger The Curies' newly discovered element of radium makes gleaming headlines across the nation as the fresh face of beauty, and wonder drug of the medical community. From body lotion to tonic water, the popular new element shines bright in the otherwise dark years of the First World War.Meanwhile, hundreds of girls toil amidst the glowing dust of the radium-dial factories. The glittering chemical covers their bodies from head to toe; they light up the night like industrious fireflies. With such a coveted job, these "shining girls" are the luckiest alive—until they begin to fall mysteriously ill.But the factories that once offered golden opportunities are now ignoring all claims of the gruesome side effects, and the women's cries of corruption. And as the fatal poison of the radium takes hold, the brave shining girls find themselves embroiled in one of the biggest scandals of America's early 20th century, and in a groundbreaking battle for workers' rights that will echo for centuries to come.Written with a sparkling voice and breakneck pace, The Radium Girls fully illuminates the inspiring young women exposed to the "wonder" substance of radium, and their awe-inspiring strength in the face of almost impossible circumstances. Their courage and tenacity led to life-changing regulations, research into nuclear bombing, and ultimately saved hundreds of thousands of lives.

17 review for The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America's Shining Women

  1. 4 out of 5

    Chelsea Humphrey

    Congratulations-winner of Best Historical & Biography 2017!I'm going to try and not cry while writing this review. I actually read this one back at the beginning of October, but I was too emotional to write a review straight away and have avoided it since. Sometimes I have trouble with emotions; for many years I avoided some of the richest books with the highest quality stories because I simply was terrified of having to process the heavy feelings behind them. I've slowly begun working on this i Congratulations-winner of Best Historical & Biography 2017!I'm going to try and not cry while writing this review. I actually read this one back at the beginning of October, but I was too emotional to write a review straight away and have avoided it since. Sometimes I have trouble with emotions; for many years I avoided some of the richest books with the highest quality stories because I simply was terrified of having to process the heavy feelings behind them. I've slowly begun working on this issue, and while I can't read a slew of emotional books in a row, I have begun to place them strategically in my line up. I think the hardest part about this one is it's real; these women existed in our world and suffered the things discussed in this book which tears my heart into little pieces. I've watched firsthand how cancer can ravage the body of someone you love, but that was just a small piece of the hell these brave warriors had to endure. Ugh, grab a hanky and let's get going.This was not a book I could race through; I read another review stating how she had to pick up the book and place it down in what felt like 2 minute increments-this is exactly how it felt slowly trudging through this story. My initial interest in the history behind "the radium girls" spawned after reading another book that had a small chapter of information in it titled Forensics: What Bugs, Burns, Prints, DNA and More Tell Us About Crime by Val McDermid (highly recommend this book even to those crime fiction fans who do not typically read non-fiction as this read like fiction!). After the brief intro into their story, I knew I had to find out more. I was blown away at their courage and strength which is portrayed in this book as well. The hardest part about reading this one was the depth it went into to ensure we understand just how much these women suffered and how honorable their fight was to fight those who placed them in this position and find justice.One of the most important takeaways I found though was how proud and honored this story made me feel to be a woman. These females were a class act; they were determined during a time when women were considered second class citizens. We could certainly use some role models such as these in today's world; the example of the strength in numbers and how to hold each other up when you are falling apart, physically and emotionally, was not lost on me. I found myself going to great lengths wondering what happened to our society between now and then; have the subtle advancements for women caused us to compete with each other in seclusion rather than band together while building one another up? I feel like I could ramble on for days regarding this book, but if you can stomach the horror and emotion regarding this much overlooked part of our history, I think it will ensure deep reflection and cause us to question some of how we approach living our lives and what we hold important. I know I'll hold this story deep in my soul for the rest of my life, it was that powerful.*I'd like to thank the author and publisher for providing my copy via NetGalley; it was my pleasure to provide an honest review.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Yun

    When radium was first discovered, no one really knew for sure what it did. Soon, however, companies latched onto its lucrative potential when it became known that radium mixed in paint had a glow-in-the-dark quality. Hundreds of girls were employed to paint watch dials and instrument panels with this magical, luminescent paint. The girls took no precautions. They were instructed to lick the paint brushes to bring the bristles to a sharp point in order to do their jobs effectively and to prevent When radium was first discovered, no one really knew for sure what it did. Soon, however, companies latched onto its lucrative potential when it became known that radium mixed in paint had a glow-in-the-dark quality. Hundreds of girls were employed to paint watch dials and instrument panels with this magical, luminescent paint. The girls took no precautions. They were instructed to lick the paint brushes to bring the bristles to a sharp point in order to do their jobs effectively and to prevent waste. It wasn't long before the women started falling sick with mysterious symptoms that no doctor could correctly diagnose. The symptoms were extremely painful and gruesome, and often irreversible.Yet when their employers were told of this, they dismissed the girls' illnesses as nothing more than fear-mongering. The companies concealed data on the effects of radium and lied with impunity to the girls and the public. What followed was a long and arduous journey for the girls to bring recognition and justice to their plight.What makes The Radium Girls so fascinating is that Moore brings these girls to life with her meticulously-researched details. She shows that they aren't just tragic figures but also deeply sympathetic souls. They lost so much of their life to this terrible poison and it was made even more unbearable by the companies' callous reactions to their sufferings. The accounts are vivid and gut-wrenching, often leaving me in tears. I'm glad Moore chose to tell this necessary story, so that the memories of these girls who gave so much to science and to their fight for worker's rights will live on.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Debra

    4.5 StarsImagine you have your first job. Imagine how proud you are. Or maybe it is not your first job, but it is a fun job where you get to socialize if you get your job done. A job that allows you to do something important for your country. Imagine you are helping your friends and sisters obtain a job as well. Imagine you work with a super cool substance which glows in the dark. A substance you believe is safe - your employer tells you is safe. A substance that one young woman painted on her o 4.5 StarsImagine you have your first job. Imagine how proud you are. Or maybe it is not your first job, but it is a fun job where you get to socialize if you get your job done. A job that allows you to do something important for your country. Imagine you are helping your friends and sisters obtain a job as well. Imagine you work with a super cool substance which glows in the dark. A substance you believe is safe - your employer tells you is safe. A substance that one young woman painted on her own teeth before a date. A substance that Thomas Edison deemed dangerous. A substance you paint on. A substance that some women were known to eat the paint because they enjoyed it. Now, imagine how painful it must be to have your teeth fall out, to have your jaw come out, to have the bones in your face disintegrate. Imagine your bones begin to hurt so bad you can barely move. Imagine one leg suddenly becoming 4 inches shorter than the other. Imagine bleeding to death. Imagine giving birth to a stillborn baby. Imagine going from being young and healthy to being dead in less than a week.The poor women in this book did not have to imagine any of these things because they lived this. This book is about the young women who wanted to do their part to help the war effort during World War I. These women worked in radium factories painting the faces on clocks. They were working with a luminous material and were come to be called as the "shining girls" They took a tremendous amount of pride in their jobs and many liked that they could "glow" in the dark. But then one by one they began having dental problems. The dental problems were only the beginning.The women began to die horribly painful deaths. Their loved ones left with questions unanswered. Most of the women were misdiagnosed in the beginning. Eventually their deaths became connected and the dangers of radium and radium poisoning were known. Thus, began a huge scandal and a fight for workers’ rights.The writing of this book was captivating. I found myself absorbed in these women's stories. Even as they were dying, these women tried hard to complete their doctor’s tests to determine if radium was to blame for their impending death. The Author did a wonderful job in bringing these women's stories to life. To show how they and their families had to battle for their rights. How a company can deny accountability and turn their back on these women. How their loved ones and lawyers fought for them and their rights. Wowza. What a wonderfully informative, sad, hopeful and interesting book. I learned a lot. I love when a book makes me think, feel, and learn. I had all these things going on when I read this book. I highly recommend this book.I received a copy of this book from Sourcebooks and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.See more of my reviews at www.openbookpost.com

  4. 5 out of 5

    Peter

    What a brilliant and interesting book on the greatest scandal in the watch industry ever. Here you come across the dangers of radium and dial painting. You'll read the shocking progression of the radium disease in the female workers and how their job turned into a nightmare. This is really moving. The author did a brilliant job with her book and her thorough research of all the biographies and persons involved in. When more and more workers got ill (the medical history is meticulously drawn here What a brilliant and interesting book on the greatest scandal in the watch industry ever. Here you come across the dangers of radium and dial painting. You'll read the shocking progression of the radium disease in the female workers and how their job turned into a nightmare. This is really moving. The author did a brilliant job with her book and her thorough research of all the biographies and persons involved in. When more and more workers got ill (the medical history is meticulously drawn here) the watch companies were sued. In the beginning right was not given to the workers, the companies renamed their names but the longer the painting process went, the more people got affected and justice had to react. After almost 20 years workers got compensation and money for the costly treatments. What a story about greed and cover-up! Absolutely must read and turning point for work safety. Gosh, those workers suffered immensely from the radium disease and this is some of the most gruesome realistic horror I ever came across. Lip, Dip, paint... and die! Phenomenal book and absolutely recommended!

  5. 5 out of 5

    Matthew

    Last audiobook of 2018! This is one where the content pushes it to a 5. If it was not for the content, I probably would have gone with 4 stars.This is not any easy book to read/listen to. The real life horrors described are terrifying and the total apathy on the part of the companies involved is infuriating. For some, the repetition might get exhausting, but I think the repetition is important. By talking about how the exact same issues went on over and over and over again and how the companies Last audiobook of 2018! This is one where the content pushes it to a 5. If it was not for the content, I probably would have gone with 4 stars.This is not any easy book to read/listen to. The real life horrors described are terrifying and the total apathy on the part of the companies involved is infuriating. For some, the repetition might get exhausting, but I think the repetition is important. By talking about how the exact same issues went on over and over and over again and how the companies responsible tried every trick in the book to avoid blame is what this book is all about!I am lucky in that all the women I have known have been satisfied that that have received fair treatment from their employers. When I read stories like this where women are treated basically as a disposable and unimportant commodity, it really hits home how unequal treatment of the sexes has been over time. At one point in the book they mention a man finally having some of the same issues as the women and only then do people start to get concerned. It's just shocking, unacceptable, and makes me want to apologize for the male gender as a whole!This is definitely one of the most important stories of the past 100 years. It helped shape how workers are treated in an industrial setting. It was a part of changing views of how women are seen in the workplace/society. And, it is a cautionary tale of how over time we have not understood the dangers of new science, technology, chemicals, etc. If there is not at least one part of this story affecting your life today, I would be surprised.These women gave their lives for all of this. We owe it to them to learn their story.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Always Pouting

    I saw a lot of positive reviews for this one so I really wanted to read it and I'm glad I did. During the beginning of the twentieth century radioactive elements were newly discovered and many were excited about the possible curative uses for them. One of the elements radium was used to paint watch dials as well as in many beauty and health products marketed to the masses. When World War I broke out the production of radium painted clocks rose and many more women became employed painting them. T I saw a lot of positive reviews for this one so I really wanted to read it and I'm glad I did. During the beginning of the twentieth century radioactive elements were newly discovered and many were excited about the possible curative uses for them. One of the elements radium was used to paint watch dials as well as in many beauty and health products marketed to the masses. When World War I broke out the production of radium painted clocks rose and many more women became employed painting them. The common practice was to use one's mouth to smooth out the ends of the paint brush leading to many women ingesting lethal amounts of radium. Eventually when the effects started to show the women had trouble finding out what caused their sickness and then trying to get the companies to acknowledge and help them pay the medical bills pilling up. The author succeeded in humanizing and bringing to life the radium girls and I honestly was boiling over with rage through out when the companies wouldn't help the girls out even though they were doing fine financially. I can't believe they went to all those lengths instead of just doing the right thing to begin with, especially because it seems like it honestly would have been cheaper to just help the girls with their medical bills.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Lou (nonfiction fiend)

    I found this book very different from anything I've ever read previously. It evoked such emotion with the details it revealed throughout and was both highly readable and thrilling. These women deserve to be recognised for the huge sacrifices they made, all they asked was the same as most of us do now - a steady job with money coming in, yet, what they got turned into something else entirely. Kate Moore did exactly what she set out to do by writing a truly honest and heartbreaking tale of these i I found this book very different from anything I've ever read previously. It evoked such emotion with the details it revealed throughout and was both highly readable and thrilling. These women deserve to be recognised for the huge sacrifices they made, all they asked was the same as most of us do now - a steady job with money coming in, yet, what they got turned into something else entirely. Kate Moore did exactly what she set out to do by writing a truly honest and heartbreaking tale of these incredibly brave and shining women whose lives were taken for granted by the greedy radium companies. They knew of the harm radium could do but in order to profit from the radium binge, let the women continue with their practices. This is an important book with regards to workplace reform but also will be of interest to those in medical and science fields or with interest in them. I am in no doubt that this sort of thing could be repeated in this day and age, due to the amount of people who's morals retire when money is involved. Highly recommended to fans of non-fiction and well researched true stories.

  8. 4 out of 5

    ¸¸.•*¨*•♫ Mrs. Buttercup •*¨*•♫♪

    Lip… Dip… Paint. In the 1920s, dozens of healthy, young, working-class women (some as young as 14) were employed in a newly-born business: painting with radium, the marvelous material the Curies had isolated 20 years prior. At the time, this fluorescent wonder was believed so beneficial for the body, that medications, aesthetic treatments and even toiletry items had started to employ it. In 1923, given you had enough money to afford it, you could spend a day at the spa, bathing in radium-infused Lip… Dip… Paint. In the 1920s, dozens of healthy, young, working-class women (some as young as 14) were employed in a newly-born business: painting with radium, the marvelous material the Curies had isolated 20 years prior. At the time, this fluorescent wonder was believed so beneficial for the body, that medications, aesthetic treatments and even toiletry items had started to employ it. In 1923, given you had enough money to afford it, you could spend a day at the spa, bathing in radium-infused water. On sale were radium jockstraps and lingerie, radium butter, radium milk, radium toothpaste (guaranteeing a brighter smile with every brushing) and even a range of Radior cosmetics, which offered radium-laced face creams, soap, rouge, and compact powders. Everyone who came in contact with this miracle of science was amazed by its property to make everything it touched glow, even the skin, teeth and clothes of the girls who worked with it. Painting with radium was a highly desired job, as it offered higher wages than average and it was, in a word, glamorous.The girls shone “like the watches did in the darkroom,” as though they themselves were timepieces, counting down the seconds as they passed. They glowed like ghosts as they walked home through the streets of Orange.Who would consider herself luckier than a girl who could afford fur coats and high heels, and went to parties every weekend glowing like a star with a material that, not only made her pockets full and her teeth luminous, but also benefit her health? And so the girls, believing that what they were doing was not only safe, but even beneficial (free radium treatment!), would handle the material every day for several hours, without any protection, and they would even ingest it, as they were advised to use their lips to shape the brush during the operations.As early as 1914, specialists knew that radium could deposit in the bones of radium users and that it caused changes in their blood. These blood changes, however, were interpreted as a good thing—the radium appeared to stimulate the bone marrow to produce extra red blood cells. Deposited inside the body, radium was the gift that kept on giving.Then, all of a sudden, people started dying. The story of the radium girls, who during their short lives endured atrocious pains, horrible disfigurements, public criticism and, overall, just plain injustice, is one tragic chapter of our history. When I first heard it, some months ago thanks to a YouTube video, I was shocked by the fact that so many people today (including me) have no idea that it had happened. How is it possible that so few people talk about this?This book is not for the faint of heart (or stomach), as it is a crude, dramatic report of events that were not only terrible per se, but also because of the reaction of the people involved (factory owners, supervisors, scientists and doctors), who appeared to knew all too well the effects of radium, but chose to keep quiet about it.If you looked a little closer at all those positive publications, there was a common denominator: the researchers, on the whole, worked for radium firms. As radium was such a rare and mysterious element, its commercial exploiters in fact controlled, to an almost monopolizing extent, its image and most of the knowledge about it. Many firms had their own radium-themed journals, which were distributed free to doctors, all full of optimistic research. The firms that profited from radium medicine were the primary producers and publishers of the positive literature.This book gave a lot of information, but left me with three questions. Number one: would things have been different if the victims were other than young, working class women? Number two: how much of the damage dealt to the population was actually deliberate, a way to test the effects of this "scientific wonder" on unknowing subjects for future uses, e. g. military? And, finally, who can reassure us that something similar is not happening today, and we are not ingesting/breathing some potentially lethal substance that is absolutely legal but that would turn out to be carcinogenic within a couple of years?In the early 2000s they built a statue, dedicated to the memory of the radium girls. I sure won't ever forget about them now that I know what really happened! May they all rest in peace.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Emily (Books with Emily Fox)

    Well this was a rough read!At around 1h into the audiobook all I could think was... this woman just got a piece of her jaw literally fall, this can get any worse... and it did.I don't recommend the audiobook. The narrator did a great job but they didn't edit her swallowing half the time and it got annoying sadly!*As I often do with non fiction... I don't feel comfortable giving a rating to this book. Well this was a rough read!At around 1h into the audiobook all I could think was... this woman just got a piece of her jaw literally fall, this can get any worse... and it did.I don't recommend the audiobook. The narrator did a great job but they didn't edit her swallowing half the time and it got annoying sadly!*As I often do with non fiction... I don't feel comfortable giving a rating to this book.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Julie

    The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women by Kate Moore is a 2017 Sourcebooks publication. “Luminous Processes, declared the local paper, seems to put profits before people.” ‘How quickly we forget.’Only the most hard -hearted among us could read this book without shedding tears. So be warned this book is not for the faint of heart and while the bravery of these young ladies is certainly inspirational, the anger and frustration I felt about their untimely and excruciating death The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women by Kate Moore is a 2017 Sourcebooks publication. “Luminous Processes, declared the local paper, seems to put profits before people.” ‘How quickly we forget.’Only the most hard -hearted among us could read this book without shedding tears. So be warned this book is not for the faint of heart and while the bravery of these young ladies is certainly inspirational, the anger and frustration I felt about their untimely and excruciating deaths left me feeling emotionally and physically exhausted. The author has obviously done meticulous research about the women who worked for the Radiant Dial Corporation and the United States Radium Corporation beginning in 1917. The practice of ‘dip, lip, paint’, which was encouraged by the factory, to prevent waste, and to give the brush a sharper point, but exposed the women, who painted luminous dials on watches, with deadly radium. The factories were so popular, due to the wages, which were well above average, and because of the ‘glow’ the women had due to the radium exposure, which they were assured was perfectly safe. Some of the women even painted the substance onto their faces to see themselves glow in the dark. Five women in particular stood out, as they battled what was termed ‘occupational diseases’, taking their case to court, but there were many more. The court cases were long, hard fought, and had many disappointments before all was said and done. It was a hard battle which lasted for many years, but the effects lingered on for these ladies’ offspring, for years to come. But, the author really excelled at bringing these women to life, giving them a voice, so to speak. All these women were so very young, so full of life and hope. To hear, in horrific detail, their pain and suffering made for some very difficult reading. Catherine Wolfe Donohoe is one that stood out for me, with her loyal husband, Tom. The suffering these women endured, was gruesome and unimaginable. Again, I warn you, this material is very graphic, and the author drives this point home with such vividness, I swear my joints and teeth ached. This is a battle that waged for many years, with the factories refusing to accept that the radium was dangerous, then trying to hide that it was dangerous, by any means. This is a painful story, one that highlights greed and deceit, but also proves what can happen if you stand up for yourself, speak out, and refuse to give up. The women featured here saved countless lives, while giving their own. This is a powerful, gut wrenching story, and it’s one that has played out in various forms, since the years highlighted here, with various companies hiding dangers or releasing flawed products onto an unsuspecting public. These women should never be forgotten and their bravery should set a shining example for anyone who may find themselves in a similar situation. You never know, you may, like the women featured in this book, bring about new standards of health and safety, expose dangers, and force accountability on those only concerned about their own bottom line. Bravo to Madeline Piller, whose championed these ladies by raising funds for a bronze statue honoring these brave women. The statue was unveiled in 2011, in Ottawa, Illinois. 5 stars

  11. 4 out of 5

    Tina Haigler

    "THE SCIENTIST HAD FORGOTTEN ALL ABOUT THE RADIUM."Ok. So I've put off writing this review for a while, simply because every time I go to write it, I get angry, and just end up ranting about the horror and injustice of it all. So I'm going to write this damn thing and try not to simply rage the whole time. Therefore, I make absolutely no promises about the quality of this review, but here goes.This was not an easy read. It made me stark raving mad. I'm talking want to throw things at people, pun "THE SCIENTIST HAD FORGOTTEN ALL ABOUT THE RADIUM."Ok. So I've put off writing this review for a while, simply because every time I go to write it, I get angry, and just end up ranting about the horror and injustice of it all. So I'm going to write this damn thing and try not to simply rage the whole time. Therefore, I make absolutely no promises about the quality of this review, but here goes.This was not an easy read. It made me stark raving mad. I'm talking want to throw things at people, punch holes in walls, and scream into the wind pissed. What these women suffered through is beyond belief, and the apathy of the people in power is enough to make anyone's blood boil, let alone the lack of justice for these poor women and their families. The fact that people knew about it, could've easily prevented it, and chose to ignore it, is downright sick. It still infuriates me every time I think about it. It is also terribly gruesome to read about the medical problems and eventual death that was inevitably caused by the radium poisoning.The book itself was decently written, engaging, and thorough. The science behind the radium, and how it affects the body was quite interesting to me. I also enjoyed reading about the girls lives before their decline. However, I didn't enjoy the court stuff as much. Honestly a lot of it seemed unnecessarily repetitive. My favorite parts were the women with the indomitable spirits, the heroic supporters who simply couldn't let this atrocity stand, and the fact that their courage changed the world. I for one, will never forget. Thank you."They made every second count."

  12. 4 out of 5

    Marialyce (absltmom, yaya)

    This book made me cry. It made me cry for the girls who were so brave, so sick, and so dedicated to one another so that the truth would be known. It made me cry for the greed that men, doctors and lawyers showed for these girls to let them suffer so while knowing the dangers of the substance they were working with. It made me cry to think of parents deprived of their daughters, children deprived of their mothers, and husbands deprived of their wives. It made me cry to think of the evil and greed This book made me cry. It made me cry for the girls who were so brave, so sick, and so dedicated to one another so that the truth would be known. It made me cry for the greed that men, doctors and lawyers showed for these girls to let them suffer so while knowing the dangers of the substance they were working with. It made me cry to think of parents deprived of their daughters, children deprived of their mothers, and husbands deprived of their wives. It made me cry to think of the evil and greed the pursuit of money breeds in our culture. It made me cry to think that there were men who willingly and knowingly had no respect for human life. Perhaps there is no fitting way to give justice to these girls and their families. However, Ms Moore, in telling their stories, did an excellent job of portraying for us the real pain, the real courage, and the real people, young girls really, who were a part of this company whose job it was to paint radium infused paint unto clocks and watches. Most apparent through the telling is the complete and utter disregard for these women and the horrible nature of the diseases caused by radium and what it did to their bodies. There was no sense of dignity put forth by the company who employed them. The Radium Dial Company was in a word despicable and one hopes that those, the men who oversaw the girls, the doctors who lied about their condition, and the lawyers who defended the horrendous actions of a company they well knew was lying, and who disavowed the girls' deteriorating conditions by the most despicable of ways are currently burning in hell. This book illuminates the things that were done to American workers in the twenties, particularly the women. It points out the enormous gratitude that must come from we who have come after these girls and now work in conditions that have been made eminently better through their sacrifice, courage, and determination. Thank you to Ms Moore for writing a book about the girls and their struggles. It is well worth the time one has to read this remarkable book written about remarkable women who did give their lives in such awful and painful ways. It is a tribute to them and a story that should be told and never be forgotten.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Bam cooks the books ;-)

    Radium, discovered in 1898 by Marie and Pierre Curie, was thought to be 'the wonder element,' a magnificent cure-all that could destroy cancerous tumors and could perhaps be the elixir of youth. When added to paint this 'liquid sunshine' could glow in the dark. In 1916, Radium Luminous Materials Corporation opened its doors in Newark, New Jersey and operated a watch dial studio that employed local girls, the daughters and granddaughters of immigrants, as painters. One hundred years ago, before O Radium, discovered in 1898 by Marie and Pierre Curie, was thought to be 'the wonder element,' a magnificent cure-all that could destroy cancerous tumors and could perhaps be the elixir of youth. When added to paint this 'liquid sunshine' could glow in the dark. In 1916, Radium Luminous Materials Corporation opened its doors in Newark, New Jersey and operated a watch dial studio that employed local girls, the daughters and granddaughters of immigrants, as painters. One hundred years ago, before OSHA and the EPA, industry had few restrictions or oversight of their workplaces in their pursuit of profits so even though the inventor of the paint knew of its destructive capabilities, the girls were not given any warnings or protective gear to wear. In fact, they were instructed to put the slim camel-hair brushes in their mouths to get a finer point for their work. Lip...Dip...Paint. Over and over, thousands of times a day.With WWI in full swing, the demand for radium dials and watches was booming; the company paid an attractive wage and employed as many as 375 girls at the peak of business. The job wasn't for everyone: some couldn't work at the pace demanded, some didn't like the taste of the paint, and some developed mouth sores quickly. But those who were talented and quick enough stayed on, liking the workplace and especially the decent salary they were paid.The first signs of illness and changes in blood resembled phosphorus poisoning, a well-known industrial poisoning in Newark, and the girls confronted their employers. They were assured that there was no need to worry--the radium amounts in the paint were so minuscule that it could not possibly cause them harm. In 1921, a corporate takeover ousted the original founder of the company and the business, renamed United States Radium Corporation, was poised to flourish in the postwar world. As the girls sickened, doctors and dentists were flummoxed by the illnesses the girls came to see them with: loose teeth, gum sockets that would not heal after extractions, pronounced limps, aches and pains. But since the girls saw different experts, all these differing complaints were not connected to one workplace.When radium poisoning was first suggested, it was highly contested by the industry and legal suits fell by the wayside as prevailing laws did not support the workers' claims.Meanwhile, 800 miles away in Ottawa, Illinois, another business started up in September of 1922: Radium Dial Company with its head office in Chicago. And the use of the 'lip, dip, paint' technique was taught to a whole new group of eager young women employees. And the deadly process began again. Other books have been written about this whole sorry and horrifying business but in this book, Kate Moore says she wanted to bring the girls' personal stories to light and give them a voice--all their hopes, dreams, pain, suffering and eventual deaths. But most importantly, how these women stood up for their rights with strength, dignity and courage. Because of their legal cases, the US government eventually formed OSHA and the EPA. Kudos to these brave women!Having lived in the general vicinity of Ottawa, IL since 1981, we were aware of this sad, shameful history through displays in local history museums but didn't realize that the area where these jobs were carried on is still in the process of being cleaned up as of 2015, according to Moore. Radium has a half-life of 1500 years! And a spinoff of the original Radium Dial company carried on business until 1978 under the name of Luminous Processes, and when workers there noticed a high incidence of breast cancer, the company denied its culpability. And the beat goes on...Many thanks to NetGalley, the publisher and author for the opportunity to read an arc of this important and moving work of nonfiction. Thank you for bringing these women's stories to life in these pages.Notes: It was a pleasure to meet author Kate Moore at a program she gave for Seneca Public Library, Seneca, IL on March 19, 2018. She genuinely cares for these women and their stories. I also sat next to the great niece of Catherine Donohue, the brave woman who won her law suit against Radium Dial even as she lay dying. It was a pleasure to meet her as well and learn more about her family.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Barbara

    4.5 starsAs early as World War I 'glow in the dark' gauges and watch dials became vital to soldiers. These were manufactured by painting the faces of the devices with compounds containing the radioactive element radium. Clock with radium dialAt the time, the dangers of fissionable elements was unknown, and - in fact - radium was touted as a boon to good looks and good health.Radium was touted as a boon to healthAfter the war - in the 1920s - large factories sprang up to feed the growing demand f 4.5 starsAs early as World War I 'glow in the dark' gauges and watch dials became vital to soldiers. These were manufactured by painting the faces of the devices with compounds containing the radioactive element radium. Clock with radium dialAt the time, the dangers of fissionable elements was unknown, and - in fact - radium was touted as a boon to good looks and good health.Radium was touted as a boon to healthAfter the war - in the 1920s - large factories sprang up to feed the growing demand for the gauges, watches, and 'wellness products' containing radium. The two companies at the center of this story are the United States Radium Corporation (USRC) of New Jersey, and the Radium Dial Company of Ottawa, Illinois. Building that housed the United States Radium CorporationThe factories paid well, and young women flocked to work there. During training, the girls were told to put the delicate paintbrushes in their mouths between applications - to form a fine tip. This 'lip, dip, paint.....lip, dip, paint' went on all day, every day - for weeks, months, years. Sadly, the girls were slowly poisoning themselves with radium - but they didn't know it. Women painting dial faces with radiumWomen were told to 'lip, dip, paint'Unlike nuclear fallout, which causes severe radiation burns (and often death) rather quickly, radium works subtly and slowly. Because radium is chemically similar to calcium, it replaces that element in the bones. The radium builds up over time, until the bones literally fall apart. Moreover, the radioactivity emitted damages other tissues and organs. As a result, several years after they started working at the watch factories, the 'radium girls' began to fall ill, exhibiting some of the most horrendous symptoms imaginable. Often, the women would lose their teeth first, then their jaw bones would rot - resulting in holes in the palate and face.Sketch of radium damage to the jawWoman whose jaw was damaged by radiumFrequently, the victims developed limps, and - in one case - a woman's legs became permanently crossed, so she couldn't walk. Tumors might develop, sometimes so large that the patient was confined to bed - in unendurable pain. The autopsy of one dead victim showed fractured ribs, holes in the skull, and necrosis (cell death) in the skull vault, pelvis, and many other bones. In fact, there were widespread skeletal changes throughout the body.Some radium girls - if they were able to conceive - suffered miscarriages. And those women who had children were often too sick and weak to care for them. Radium girls couldn't care for their childrenIn addition, there was always the danger of secondary infections, like pneumonia. Sadly, radium poisoning is not curable and - especially back then - effective treatments were unknown. Thus many of these women died terrible deaths. And most of them were in their twenties!Radium poisoning was a death sentencePerhaps the worst thing of all, the companies knew radium was dangerous and hid this fact from everyone. In fact, company honchos out and out lied, advertising radium as healthful....'it'll put roses in your cheeks.' Advertisement for radium face cream"The Radium Girls" focuses on several young women who fought back against the watch companies, suing for compensation and medical bills. In an author's note, Kate Moore explains that previous books on the subject focused on the legal and scientific aspects of the cases. Moore, on the other hand, wanted to showcase "real women standing up for their rights with strength, dignity, and courage" - and she does an admirable job.Moore thoroughly researched her subject, and unearthed many details about the lives of the affected women. The author captures their excitement at landing 'good jobs'' in the watch plants; the fashionable clothes they purchased with their salaries; the men they dated - and the fun they had. The girls were thrilled that their clothing, covered with radium-containing dust, would shine in the night.....making a spectacular impression on everyone around. Some adventurous gals even decorated their nails and lips with the radium paint. In retrospect, of course, this was a terrible idea! Moore goes on to write about the young ladies' betrothals and marriages..... and then the inevitable devastation to parents, siblings, husbands (and sometimes children) when their bodies fell apart. When some of the victims banded together to file lawsuits against USRC and Radium Dial, the legal machinations by the factories - who adamantly denied responsibility for the girls' illnesses - were so devious, underhanded, and downright disgusting that the factory owners deserve a place in the lowest depths of hell (figuratively speaking). Victims of radium poisoning supported each otherThe radium companies co-opted dentists, doctors, lawyers, so-called experts, factory managers, and so on - to cheat, lie, and steal. In one case, a physician swiped the jawbone of a girl being autopsied, so it couldn't be tested for radium poisoning. When the companies were found liable in court - and ordered to pay compensation to the sick women - they appealed again and again and again....in one case, all the way to the Supreme Court. Of course all this dragged on for many years, and it seems the radium companies were hoping the women would die. This book was very distressing to read - so disturbing In fact, that I had to take periodic breaks. The dismissive and uncaring stance of the guilty parties is almost incomprehensible, and they did it all for profit! And later on, when the companies were ordered to clean up the defunct factory sites, which seethed with radioactivity, they refused (or contributed a token few dollars). Unbelievable!Since this is history, I don't think it's a spoiler to say that the valiant battle of the brave women outlined in this story resulted in changes to the laws, and stronger safeguards for employees in the workplace. This is a sad but fascinating story. The book is thorough, well-written, and compelling, and I'd highly recommend it to anyone interested in the subject. You can follow my reviews at https://reviewsbybarbsaffer.blogspot....

  15. 4 out of 5

    Pamela Small

    2.5 rounded up due to the author’s excellent research. The research is extensive and impeccable in this historical, non fictional account of the use (misuse and abuse) of radium at the turn of the century. I was unaware of the radium girls and the factories that employed them. Therefore, I feel VERY enlightened, if not VERY enraged, by the corporate greed, the lack of safety standards, and the poor communication between scientists, management, and doctors. Consumer advocacy has improved greatly 2.5 rounded up due to the author’s excellent research. The research is extensive and impeccable in this historical, non fictional account of the use (misuse and abuse) of radium at the turn of the century. I was unaware of the radium girls and the factories that employed them. Therefore, I feel VERY enlightened, if not VERY enraged, by the corporate greed, the lack of safety standards, and the poor communication between scientists, management, and doctors. Consumer advocacy has improved greatly in the last 100 years, thank God. The lower rating is due to the execution. The author is said to have written an historical narrative, yet it seemed to be more of a longitudinal parade of facts, which became repetitive and redundant. Transitioning between Ottawa and New Jersey was choppy and confusing. Transitioning between the various girls was also tedious and confusing. There was just so much back and forth and so much redundancy. It did not read as a narrative at all. The book would have been more engaging, and the facts more interesting, if fewer girls were portrayed, and only one setting was used. Radium Girls: A Play in Two Acts is much more appealing as it scales down on all the excruciating detail found in this book and allows the reader to embrace the dynamic characterization of one of the workers. In fairness, I think I prefer historical fiction ( ex:The All Girls Filling Station, Hidden Figures, Nightwitches, The Nightengale) which still inform and enlighten the reader, but with a narrative that is more engaging than a text-book-like series of facts. I would like to thank NetGalley and Sourcebooks for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jess Owens

    This was tough. CW: detailed descriptions of the women’s bodies deteriorating. Informative ? Check. I heard of this book a couple of years ago, so I knew about this group of women from that. But I hadn’t known about the “radium girls”. Infuriating? Check. ENRAGING actually. Well told? Check. I liked the writing and how the story was structured. Also I listened to the audio on Scribd and it was narrated by the author. The audio from the library has a different narrator and I preferred the author’ This was tough. CW: detailed descriptions of the women’s bodies deteriorating. Informative ? Check. I heard of this book a couple of years ago, so I knew about this group of women from that. But I hadn’t known about the “radium girls”. Infuriating? Check. ENRAGING actually. Well told? Check. I liked the writing and how the story was structured. Also I listened to the audio on Scribd and it was narrated by the author. The audio from the library has a different narrator and I preferred the author’s narration. If you don’t know about this period and what these women went through, I recommend. Just be wary about the descriptions of their ailments — it can be a lot. But wow, TL;DR: America has always equaled = corporations & profits > people 🙃

  17. 5 out of 5

    Juli

    In the early 1900s Radium was a sensation. The Curie's discovery was touted as a cure-all, a miracle, a wonder. At the time, little was understood about the side effects of handling Radium, however. In an era when most jobs for women were low paying, young women lined up for positions painting clock faces with radium paint. The jobs were high paying and gave them status in their community. The clock faces glowed a radiant green in the dark, making them a popular purchase. These girls sat for hou In the early 1900s Radium was a sensation. The Curie's discovery was touted as a cure-all, a miracle, a wonder. At the time, little was understood about the side effects of handling Radium, however. In an era when most jobs for women were low paying, young women lined up for positions painting clock faces with radium paint. The jobs were high paying and gave them status in their community. The clock faces glowed a radiant green in the dark, making them a popular purchase. These girls sat for hours happily painting, pointing their paint brushes by swishing them in their mouths. They played games with leftover radium paint, drawing moustaches on themselves, painting their eyebrows, dabbing a bit on their lips. Then they would huddle in a dark room, laughing at the bright green glow. The effect didn't wear off after work. Their clothes, their hair, even their skin would glow. Often they wore their best dresses to work so that their clothing would glow at parties. What they didn't realize is the painful effects Radium exposure would have on their health. When many of these dial painting employees began having serious medical issues....chronic mouth infections, loose teeth, disintegrating jaw bones, tumors, and even death....their employers turned a blind eye. They refused to take responsibility for the work-related illnesses and deaths. Several studies were done that refuted claims that radium was the cause of the illnesses. It took years of fighting and public outcry for life-saving regulations to be put in place to protect workers from this scale of work related injury and blatant disregard for employee health and safety. This book is well-written and an enjoyable read. It tells the tale of these bright, happy young women who were so excited to have a high paying, fun job...but who often paid a high price for working with radium. They were risking their lives for $17.50 (about $242 today) a week, and didn't even know it. When dentists starting noticing multiple women with crumbling jaw bones and chronic mouth infections, it took years for the cause to be traced back to radium. Rather than putting their employees health at the forefront, the employers involved chose to hide the facts so they could continue to make money. The women, injured by exposure to Radium, had to fight to have their story heard, and it led to work place safety regulations to prevent similar exposure to future workers. They were courageous and fought for what they knew was right. This book is horrifying and haunting, yet compelling. I'm glad the stories of these women and what they endured isn't being lost to time. It was 100 years ago now, but their fight for justice shouldn't be forgotten. Lovely and informative read. I highly recommend it!

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