The Radium Girls

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 10 Nov 2019

Member Reviews

This is the hidden story of the women who made things with Radium, which we now know is horrible for us.  They were told to put it in their mouths!  They glowed with they went home!  They were told they it was safe even though the companies know it wasn’t.  This is the story of these women who ended up with cancer eating their bodies from the inside out and the fight for them to have their medical bills covers and in the end, their deaths.  These women fought and fought so that others didn’t have to so that workers could have a safer working environment.  This was a great book that told a silent piece of history that should be brought into the light.
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This is a story about a different era, when we had no clue about the effects of radioactive substances. Well worth reading.
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This is an amazingly well-written book, filled with both triumph and tragedy. I was deeply affected by the stories of the brave dial painters, their suffering and determination to fight back against the radium companies. It feels unreal to me how blind and ruthless these companies chose to be only for the sake of making profits.

I do believe gender had a lot to do with this sort of segregation and cheating of the dial painters teenagers/girls. They were basically used, sacrificed, yet they somehow became more than life through their suffering and contribution to the radiation branch of the health system/medicine in the US and world-wide.

This almost didn't feel like nonfiction in terms of the writing style. It was a continuous flow, accessible language, well-rounded characters and seemless storytelling. I'll have to check other books written by Kate Moore.

Many thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the opportunity to read and review this arc.
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I have always been fascinated by the story of the radium girls, so I was very excited and nervous about this book. Excited for the potential of a more in depth look at these women and for their tragic story to become more well known, but nervous that it wouldn’t do their story justice or get all the facts. I meedn’t Have worried. I found this book to be incredibly well researched, captivating, and thought-provoking. A wonderful book.
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While I definitely enjoyed my experience reading this book, there are some issues with pacing and character development in the middle that left me wanting just a bit more.
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History that's easy to read while making you think
This was an excellent book! While ultimately a tragedy that reminds society of the need for caution, I enjoyed reading this well written story about one of the important roles that women played in our history. 

Posted in kindle and Goodreads as excelrn.
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This is my review, here and an Goodreads:

Wow, this story was a page turner. I never heard of these girls before which, hearing what they went through, is amazing. The story is definitely a 5 star read but the writing just didn't match up. I can still highly recommend this read to anyone looking for a fascinating, page turner of a story.
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This is a difficult book to read, not because of the writing, but because of the subject.  Young women who died in such a horrible way because their employers ignored the hazards of radium. Their deaths changed the way industries treated employees,  so there is a hopeful undertone, but the detailed descriptions of these girls' suffering is gut wrenching.  Worth the read, but be aware.
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As soon as I saw Radium Girls up on the Netgalley platform I knew I NEEDED to read it. While I had never done extensive reading on these girls I had heard of them in passing while reading various other non-fiction works, especially when taking a class on social reform and women’s rights. However, after having received the book, life happened and like so many other things, it quite literally was shelved for awhile. But I still knew I WANTED to read this. So when a weekend arrived where I wasn’t feeling great and was going to be spending my time on the couch, it was time, finally, to pick up the book! And I absolutely devoured the pages in the course of the weekend!

What immediately caught my attention in this book was the girls themselves. The author doesn’t focus on just one of two key players, but quite the handful of women who endured a lot at the expense of radium. These women were fleshed out and their reasons for working at the various radium dial painting factories and the effects of the radium on their lives and bodies were detailed in full. Each woman had different reasons and different ailments and this book gave the full picture. Not something you want to be reading while eating, it can be gross at times as the author pulls no punches, but it was very appreciated because I could truly identify with these women and the pain they endured even while fighting their battle legally.

Even the companies themselves, the author dug under the covers and we are treated to what they knew and the lengths they went to in order to hide what they knew about the effects of the radium. What shocked me was how these women underwent exams by the company doctors, but were not given access to the results and the company men already knew they were suffering from radium’s effects early on.

I also appreciated the legal process that the author took us through as the women struggled to find anyone that would be willing to go up against the industry or assist them with their case. These were women who suffered some horrible workplace injustices, but at the time the jobs they were doing were considered to be top of the heap and THE jobs to be had, which made for considerable backlash. This reminded me to some extent of some of the garment workers in NYC, how those jobs were better than many others that women could have and there was high competition for the jobs, and the only way that their workplace situations were improved was unfortunately through a major fire that killed many women (at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory).

Oh and let me not forget to mention, that although this is a non-fiction book, it certainly doesn’t read like one. While the material might be heavy in concept, the writing style is fluid and reads more like a novel, seamlessly moving from one thing to the next. An excellent book that I would highly recommend.
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Terrible, and engrossing - a remarkable history of women and industrial poisoning.
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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 named Luminous Processes, and workers there noticed a high incidence of breast cancer with the company denying 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.
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Thank you for the opportunity to review this book. Unfortunately, I did not finish it. I will therefore not be posting reviews of it.
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An excellent chilling account of scientific ignorance and corporate greed counterposed with human suffering. Very well written and difficult to put down. It will be an education for many who are unaware of this seemingly harmless but deadly industry.  It will (hopefully) be a great movie.
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The atrocities these women suffered unfortunately prove the inhuman forces of greed. The tenacious spirit of the sufferers prove that human inner strength becomes immortal.
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The Radium Girls by Kate Moore left me speechless and I now feel that I have had enough time to reflect on this emotional read. I realized that I have a difficult time rating books that are based on true stories, especially one as devastating as this one. How can I accurately rate something that happened to real people?

I had not known anything about the radium girls and their significant part of history prior to reading this book. During World War I, teenage girls and young women worked in factories to paint dials on clocks for the war effort. The women working in these factories were told that the luminous paint they used was safe. They had no idea that there was radium in the paint and that it was in fact deadly. It wasn’t until the women began to fall ill with serious medical conditions that they and their families started searching for answers. 

When it was discovered that the radium exposure was causing serious illnesses such as the loss of teeth and jaw bones, hip and joint pain, miscarriages, and tumors, the women sought legal help to obtain compensation. I was outraged that the corporations would not take responsibility and called these women liars. The corporations even went as far as hiring doctors to tell the women they were healthy and did not have radium poisoning. The corporations' dishonesty and greed made me sick to my stomach. 

This book evoked many emotions in me. I had a hard time reading it straight through because it was heartbreaking and I was shocked at the injustices the women faced. I believe that these women should be recognized for their determination and courage throughout their suffering. Their battle for justice influenced the precautions needed when handling radium and the necessary change for workers’ rights. 

The Radium Girls is a thoroughly researched and inspirational story of the brave women who fought for workers’ rights in the early 1900’s. I have a feeling this powerful book will stay with me for a very long time. I highly recommend The Radium Girls as it is an important part of history that needs to be heard.  

*Thank you NetGalley, Sourcebooks, and Kate Moore for the opportunity to read The Radium Girls. It was my pleasure to write an honest review.*
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Eine interessante Mischung aus romanartiger Erzählung und faktenbasiertem Sachbuch. Spannend und informativ. Empfehlenswert.
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4.5 Stars Rounded to 5

There isn’t one thing I can say about this book that would do the content justice. There were moments reading about the plights these women were going through where I fully had the hitched, ready to cry breathing, without crying. I mean, it’s absolutely devastating what these girls and their families went through. The corporate greed and complete underhandedness made my blood boil and I wanted to go back in time and punch all of the Radium company owners in the face. I mean, I still get chills when I think of the magnitude of the situation. As well as just how many people died and were affected by radium poisoning. It is sickening to say the least.

Lip…Dip…Paint… will now forever be 3 of the most terrifying words I’ve ever heard strung together. Knowing today how truly dangerous radium is, it is crazy to read about these women basically fully digesting the radium powder. Along with having ‘fun’ with it by painting their faces and nails, and wearing their best clothes to work so they glow when they go out that night. It’s really creepy when they talk about going to bed at night and there being no lights on, and seeing the glow come off their skin. It is seriously insane to think about the things that happened in this book, and in our very real history. 

Special shout-out to those who chose to think outside the box, and really try to figure out what was going on. The doctors, the government workers, and the few attorneys who really stood up for these women to ensure that justice was served against corrupt, greedy, deceptive and abusive radium companies. The same companies who touted how special what these girls were doing was, by painting the luminous clocks that allowed continued war efforts, and then just as quickly turning them out and slandering their integrity and humanity by refusing to take responsibility for what they were doing. 

Ultimately, numerous laws were added and updated to ensure such egregious miscarriages of justice wouldn’t be able to happen again in the future. These young girls started working to help their country, support their families during the Great Depression, and ultimately fought one of the biggest legal battles on U.S. soil, not only for the feminist movement, and women everywhere, but for every citizen of our country. Winning their legal battles didn’t bring back all of those that already died, didn’t find them a cure for their own poisoning, and didn’t help all those families who were so negatively affected by the whole situation. But it did give hope to all future generations that they would never have to go through such a horrific experience at the hands of a greedy corporation. We are all in debt to the sacrifices they made with their lives.

The only reason I dropped half a star off this was the fact that the author put all the notes and bibliography at the end of the book. I would’ve preferred if there had been footnotes throughout the book that I could’ve quickly and easily referenced as I went.

I am most fortunate to have received this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
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I almost shelved this as "True Crime" because that's exactly what it was - dozens of young women were deliberately exposed to harmful chemicals and nothing was done until it was too late.

This is the story of The Radium Girls - beautiful young women who worked as dial painters before, during and after the First World War in America. They worked with radium, dipping their brushes into the precious material to make clock faces luminous for soldiers and laypeople alike. In order to keep their brush tips pointed, they licked them.

Over time, the women began to deteriorate - finding tumours, having problems with their teeth, breaking bones, losing energy and eventually ending up beyond help - but what was causing it? And surely, once investigated, a company wouldn't continue to expose their workers to such harm?

Would they?

This reminded me a lot of the Kerr/McGee Plutonium scandal (immortalized by Meryl Streep in the film Silkwood). With profiles of many of the individual girls, I got a real sense of who they were - living, breathing women, some mothers, some not - women who wanted to earn their own money and contribute to the war effort. Women that "shined" at night because of the particles of radium on their clothes. Women who were repeatedly dismissed and told there was nothing wrong, women who refused to take that, women who took on huge multinational corporations and refused to go down without a fight.

This was a brilliant book, one I'd recommend to anyone. Fans of "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" or "The Killing of Karen Silkwood: The Story Behind the Kerr-McGee Plutonium Case" may be interested.
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The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women, by Kate Moore is the type of story that needs to be told again and again. Moore tells the tale of young women who took a job that was spelled out to be glamours and helpful to the war effort, but then had to step-up for their own rights and health.
Gut-wrenching as it may be, everyone should know and respect what happened to these strong, inspired young women.
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Radium Girls was well written-not sensationalist- connecting these women, their pain, and their legacies in terms of medicine and labor laws in an accessible narrative.
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