Author: Kate Moore
Source/Format: Purchased; Paperback
More Details: History; Nonfiction
Publisher/Publication Date: Sourcebooks; May 2, 2017
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Synopsis from Goodreads...
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...
One of the books I read in December was The Radium Girls by Kate Moore. It was sitting on my shelf for a while, and I decided it was time to finally read it.
The Radium Girls is probably one of the most poignant, haunting, and sobering reads I’ve read in a while. The Radium Girls is nonfiction, and it tells the history of the women who worked in radium dial-painting factories around the 1920s. It was also about who knew about the dangers of radium, and those who were willing to ignore it in favor of monetary gain.
Sold on the premise of what first appeared to be a glamourous and high-paying job, it turned out to be a slowly unfolding nightmare with significant effects that lasted for years. The women, as documented in The Radium Girls, suffered from incurable (and fatal) health issues directly resulting from their work with the radium paint used to give the dials their luminous glow—more specifically the method used on the factory floor to fix brush ends, which led to the ingestion of radium paint: the “lip-dip-paint routine.” There were other factors as well, like all the details about how the paint got on skin and clothes, and how workers would eat in areas near the paint. The effects of the radium were, for lack of better words, gruesome. It was chilling to read about the women’s condition and how many people were willing to just brush the issue aside despite all the evidence. It was gross negligence and downright insidious at times.
The Radium Girls is a hard and at times an infuriating book to read. Nevertheless it’s an important history that’s worth reading about.