The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America's Shining Women by Kate Moore
The incredible true story of the young women exposed to the “wonder” substance of radium and their brave struggle for justice...
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.
A rich, historical narrative written in a sparkling voice, The Radium Girls is the first book that fully explores the strength of extraordinary women in the face of almost impossible circumstances and the astonishing legacy they left behind.
Wow, Radium Girls was a fascinating read. I have been reading a lot of non-fiction recently, and I generally enjoy it, but a non-fiction story hasn't grabbed me like this one has maybe ever. I couldn't put it down once I started. It was horrifying and compelling and everything I wanted. Well almost everything. It did give me a few thing to look up and learn more about once I finished. I knew nothing about the Radium Girls before reading this, nothing of how radium was thought of and whatnot, and I am glad I read this.
Radium Girls was a fascinating read. While it was horrifying at times, it made me really angry at times, it was interesting. Because I don't think that things have changed that much. Sure you have more protections as a worker, but corporations can be just as corrupt. They just have other ways of going about it.
This is the story of the girls who worked for a radium watch dial factory. Who would dip their paintbrushes in the radium paint, but it in their mouth to point it, then paint on the dial. Many many times a day. They were told it was perfectly safe, the radium is actually good for you! But that was the thinking at the time, which looking at it from now and everything we know is crazy! And made me cringe every time they said they put the radium paint in their mouth. They ate with the dust of it all over the place. How they glowed when they left work and no amount of scrubbing would get rid of it. Oh, those poor women. And the company they worked for? Even when they knew beyond a doubt that the radium was making them sick, killing them, did they do anything? No. They didn't have to. They were vile, reprehensible, but like I said above I think a lot of companies still are. They will pay lobbyists and government to make it so they can do what they want. Look at the beef and dairy industry for prime examples. How about slaughterhouses? They are terrible places to work because of safety issues and the like, but the companies get away with it. So although these women helped worker's rights move forward, it didn't eliminate the problem of greedy corporations not treating employees right.
The struggles these women went through I can't imagine. Living like they did, the pain and suffering the endured, I can't image. I don't know if I would have been as strong as some of them were. To fight with everything they had to try and change things. I really admire that about them. I found the whole thing fascinating. Their stories, before they worked there, working there, after, all of it. One of the best non--fiction books I have read. And everything these women helped us with, helped science with even after they died, is incredible. Unfortunate what happened to them, but at least they got to help others. Which is what some of them wanted in the end after they found out what happened. Really a great read that I highly recommend.
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★