Cover Image: The Radium Girls

The Radium Girls

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Member Reviews

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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A real life story about what happens when your dream job ends up killing you. This is a powerful story about how corporations put money above the lives of its women workers, and the toll it took on those women. The ailments of the women is described in anxiety inducing detail, but I think that's the only way to truly covey the horrors these women had to face. Gripping and chilling all at the same time, this is one of the best non-fiction books I've read in years.
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This book is absolutely heartbreaking. The story of the Radium Girls, like all stories of previously untold injustices, is a shocking and saddening one, yet it is an important story to tell. This book gives a beautifully descriptive account of the lives of girls and their tragic deaths. Although it is a historical record of events, this book is also a personal history of the girls and their struggles that brings their tale to life in a way an ordinary historical account never could. The sacrifices these women made and their brave fight to improve working conditions saved and improved so many countless lives. It was an honor to read their story. Warning - do not read on public transport and Bring a box of tissues for this one! Speaking from experience.
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This is an amazing story and an incredible book. Before I read Radium Girls, I had only a vague notion of some sort of scandal surrounding WWI watches, specially made so that soldiers could read the dials, day or night, in whatever conditions. I remembered that when Radium was introduced in the US, it became a phenomenon and a major fad. It was new and exciting and people went crazy for the glow. Part of me is impressed that I absorbed -- and retained -- that much information, because it had to have been years ago that I learned about it at all. However, I can't believe how much of the story I didn't know. Radium Girls is both fascinating and sad; it gives these largely-forgotten women a voice, and a chance to be heard. People complain about ridiculous regulations and government oversight so often these days; Radium Girls is a shining example of the dark side of those famous "good old days." It is a chilling -- and necessary -- reminder that it IS the government's business -- and it's responsibility -- to protect it's citizens, whether they are factory owners or factory workers.
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I had zero knowledge of the “Radium Girls” until I started listening to Moore’s book. And now all I can say is WOW. This book was absolutely devastating, yet so incredibly fascinating. I was constantly seeking out any spare minutes throughout my days so I could keep listening.

I think we can all agree that these women were dealt a really sh*tty hand. They were lied to and manipulated into a death sentence. And yet so many of them refused to give up, even from their death beds. These women were adamant that the companies who knowingly placed them in harm’s way would be made to own up to their wrongdoings, and positive changes would be put in place for future generations of workers. They knew they were doomed, but they fought anyway.

I don’t think I can even find the words to express how much admiration and respect I have for these women, or how baffled I am at the selfish attitudes of the men running these companies. But I do know you should read this book. Even if you aren’t a history buff or nonfiction fan, Moore has mastered the art of narrative nonfiction, making this book read like a story. She brings these women to life in a way that I wasn’t expecting. You’re going to learn so much from this book, all the while feeling as though you’re reading the best (worst?) thriller.
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How on EARTH is this not taught in school? How is it that I am nearly 40 and had never heard of the women who died from painting with radium? This book is sorely needed, and the fact that it's well written and composed is just gravy on top.

In short, back in the early 1900s, radium was used to make things glow, things like watch faces and panels for airplanes. Women were employed to paint these items, and they were exposed to insane amounts of radium...because despite it being known in scientific circles that it was poisonous, that message wasn't well-circulated.

Moore takes us on a more personal journey with some of the ladies who fought against the companies that killed them (once the source was discovered, which in itself is a fascinating story of science). I appreciated how she balanced the human side with the science, compassion with cold truth, and how this narrative taught me so much about something I had no clue about. The woman who painted dials never asked to be heroes, but they ended up making sure that their lives were not lost in vain--so much of our safety in the workplace today is owed to them.

This should be required reading in every school, everywhere.

I normally don't give 5 stars to books that I don't intend to re-read, but this one was so well-crafted, and is such a vital narrative, that it deserves that honor.
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I never thought much about glow-in-the-dark products that have been around my entire life, but this book gave me a gruesome education about it's history.  Young girls in the early 1900's who were thrilled to get jobs as factory dial painters ended up getting eaten alive from the inside out from radium poisoning.  Worse yet, the companies didn't give a hoot.  The most important thing to them was the bottom line for the corporation, not the health of their workers.  A well written book about a shameful period in manufacturing history.
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This was  an incredible story and I am so glad it has been told.  Unbelievable.
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This is such an incredibly inspiring story, albeit a tough one to read. Essentially, this is the story of the women martyred, who gave scientists our first insight into the havoc that radiation will wreak on the body. This book tells the story of the abused women who fought and pursued justice that led to the basis of workmen's comp and protection for those exposed to work-related hazards. I am astounded that I was not familiar with this story before. Kate Moore's writing is so full and inviting, that several times in the first quarter of the book I re-checked that I was indeed reading a non-fiction book. Each and every woman who she includes in this record is described in such detail that they all pop alive on the page. She handles each person's story with such loving care.  However, though this is a celebration of their lives and homage to these strong women and the impact they made on the world, for me, 2017 was not a year that I wanted to read about countless accounts of women ignored, used, and destroyed in the workplace. This book was terrifyingly relevant and at times read like a horror story in terms of the graphic description of the disintegration of these poor girls' bodies. I am glad that I read it, but it took about 7 months for me to get through this one...That said, I believe this one is an important story to tell.
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This book not only told the history of the dial painters who were poisoned by radiation from painting glowing dials for the war effort, it went deeper and made it into a story about the individual girls and their lives and the struggles and losses they suffered everyday from this poisoning. It was beautifully heart wrenching. You felt you knew these girls; these girls were your neighbors, your coworkers, or your family. You wanted justice for them. You knew their fate and yet you hoped of some other outcome, just this one time. This book took a didfferent approach to this story that hit you right in the feels. Excellent storytelling. I highly recommend this great read!
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The sad story of the women whose job it was, in the 1920s, to paint watch and clock dials with glow-in-the-dark paint. Unbeknownst to them, the paint contained radium, a deadly substance. The author describes the effect of the radium on their bodies, and tells of their lengthy legal quest for compensation from the companies who knew the paint was dangerous but covered it up.
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A heartbreaking and harrowing true story told in America 1917 of the dial painting of clocks and watches in the factory carried out with luminous radiant paint and the horrific injuries received by the woman due to the radium poisoning omitted.
The ladies fought for justice long and hard to ultimately receive the rights to a new law placed regarding hazardous substances. 
This book shocked me to the core but it's a story that needed to be told and one that will stay with me for a long time.
My thanks go to the author, publishers and Netgalley for this arc in return for a honest review.
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Kate Moore does a fantastic job telling the tragic tale of the Radium Girls, whose lives were dramatically altered, and in some cases cut short, by working with the element Radium. Moore follows the stories of several different groups of women who were affected by their work and tried to let others know of the dangers. Compelling.
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Thanks to Net Galley,  source books, and Kate Moore  for this ARC.  I believe this book to be very truthful but disturbing look back at female workers in the radium plant. It keep me interested in the subject matter, and  interested in the women involved in the painting  with radium. Such an interesting story yet something you didn’t want to actually believe had happened. If you are a lover Of history this is a must read for you.
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The style of the book is not what I was originally expecting.  I was expecting more of a "story" format rather than a narrative.  It is still very interesting and the format doesn't detract from the narrative at all.
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I had never heard of the story of the Radium Girls until I found out about the book. Then I HAD to read it!  This is a very sad story, and it is hard to believe this actually happened to so many girls.  Reading Kate Moore’s words about how she found out about this story and the fact that she is British stands out to me.  She felt it was a story she needed to tell and she delivered!

**As this happened in the past and anything can be researched I don’t feel like any of what I am going to say in this review is a spoiler.

We get to know each of the girls featured and their lives. We also get to know the extreme pain and anguish they went through from suffering from the radium poisoning. Moore graphically depicts the way the girls suffer.  As I was reading, I wanted to tell them to stop the ‘lip, dip, paint’ that they were instructed to do!  They continued as they were told the radium was safe. They were even excited to see the radium on themselves as they left work and ‘glowed in the dark’. They even went dancing while the radium was on them.  Yes, the girls were naïve, but it was not their fault: They were young (some barely teenagers), impressionable and excited to get the highly sought after job of becoming a “Radium Girl”.

The villains are the companies and they are despicable as they knew radium was dangerous and they kept this fact a secret from the girls.  They did not care about the girls, it was just about making a dollar. The Radium Girls is a very hard book to read. It was not just the girls who were affected, but their families as well with the high medical bills.

The girls’ story continues as some go to court and fight a hard fought battle.  Their battle ended with changes to laws and more safeguards in the workplace for employees.

Kate Moore worked tirelessly to bring us this narrative non-fiction journey. Everything in the book is real, but written in this way you don’t ever want to put The Radium Girls down! It is well researched and she traveled all over the US learning about these girls and their lives.

Ms. Moore, you have made the Radium Girls proud by sharing their personal story with us.

There is a site dedicated to the novel and the Radium Girls. Do check it out, it’s the least we can do.

Special thanks to NetGalley for granting me a copy. The Radium Girls is recommended.
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Completely heartbreaking, yet inspiring. It took me some time to finish this one, as it was so incredibly heavy and painful to digest. The Radium Girls will stay engraved in my mind forever. "I wanted to showcase their shining spirits in a book that would tell their story - not just the famous professionals who had helped them."
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