Title: Radium Girls – The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women
Author: Kate Moore
Published: May 2, 2017
Obtained: Amazon eBook
Synopsis: This is the incredible true story of countless women effected by radium poisoning in the early 20th century. Radium was a newly discovered element, and many believed it to have curative powers. So none of the women using it to paint clock dials for the war thought twice about putting the radium-covered paintbrushes in their mouths. What follows is their fight for survival and justice as they become known to the world as the Radium Girls.
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There are no words. So many emotions swirled through my head while reading The Radium Girls. I celebrated in their triumphs, cried through their pain, suffering and death, and was angered by the injustice of it all. On top of that, half of this story took place only a few miles from where I reside, in Orange, New Jersey. I never knew that people could have a flippant view on human life.
Let me start by saying there is a lot of grotesque imagery in The Radium Girls. Their symptoms of radium poisoning are explained in great detail, and may not be suitable for most readers. I, on the other hand, thought I could get through it. And I did, but not without feeling some serious despair for the suffering of these women and hatred for those responsible.
During WWI, radium was used in minuscule amounts as paint for clock and instrument dials for wartime. The radium in the paint allowed for these dials to glow in the dark. The job of radium dial painters was a lucrative one: single young women could make some serious cash in this position. Unbeknownst to the whole world, radium was a hazardous material that would ruin these girls’ lives.
“They picked up their brushes and they twirled them over and over, just as they had been taught. Lip… Dip… Paint.” – Kate Moore
They were slowly, over time, ingesting small quantities of radium, which we now know to be highly toxic to the body.
The Radium Girls
This was a highly addicting read. I had trouble putting the book down. The fact that Radium Girls read like fiction made it so much easier to understand the seriousness of this crisis. Kate Moore could have gone with a more medical or legal approach, but she wanted to best represent these women’s stories so that everyone could know their sacrifices.
“Yet as a storyteller and a non-academic, I was struck by the fact that the books focused on the legal and scientific aspects of the women’s story, and not on the compelling lives of the girls themselves. In fact, I soon discovered that no book existed that put the radium girls center stage and told the story from their perspective.” – Kate Moore
And Moore did just that. She brought these numerous women to the forefront of this nonfiction account. Moore gave them voices so that everyone who reads this book understands just what they all went through. She did a phenomenal job writing their story and I’m sure would have made them all proud.
This book proves that everyone has a voice and the ability to fight injustice regardless of all obstacles. These women could barely walk or get out of bed, and they managed to fight their former employers in court for justice. They inspire me, and I don’t think I will ever forget their story.
Memorable Quote (There were many…): “Through their friendships, through their refusal to give up and through their sheer spirit, the radium girls left us all an extraordinary legacy. They did not die in vain. They made every second count.”