Cover Image: The Radium Girls

The Radium Girls

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Member Reviews

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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Recommended for anyone who wants to better understand the sacrifices made by American women at home during World War I.
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This was a very insightful and interesting book. The story of the Radium Girls is eye opening.  The author did an extraordinary job showing the strength of the girls even with all the suffering that they endured.  The disregard that business at that time had for their employees and the lack of laws to protect the employees shows how far society has come.  This book tells history of how the medical world, business and law are intertwined.  This is an amazing book that everyone should read.
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Starting in WWI and continuing until the 1930’s, there was big business in painting clock and instrument dials with radium. Two of the main factories were in New Jersey and Illinois. The painters that were hired were mainly young women and they were well paid for their work. To get the brush point to a fine tip, the girls would dip the brush in the radium, use their lips to create the point and then apply the paint. When some of the girls became ill, dentists and doctors were stupefied by the symptoms. No one knew the dangers of handling radium and even if they suspected, the truth was hidden. In fact, the two radium businesses had evidence of the dangers and lied to the girls. They assured them that painting radium dials was perfectly safe. 

Moore follows the cases of numerous young women who suffered horrifically from their exposure. The details of their ailments is gruesome and unnerving. Compounding the horror is the repeated actions of the companies to hide clear evidence, mislead their employees and cheat the sick and dying girls of any compensation. Not only is this eye-opening but the cases of a few of the women to get the companies to pay for some of their medical care, were historically significant and lead to important legislation. This is a significant book about a travesty of monumental proportions. It puts corporate greed center-stage. It’s a time when women were thankful for having a job. They didn’t question authority and believed what they were told. The danger of radiation poisoning was not understood and doctors and dentists were seeing symptoms they couldn’t explain. Even as the girls suffered, they were brave and stalwart rather than angry and vindictive. During this time in history, people were more accepting of their plight, less challenging of those in authority and laws were not as protective of workers’ rights. 

This nonfiction book uses documents, comments and personal recollections in presenting an account of the torturous suffering of many young women who thought they were lucky to have such a great job as a dial painter, using the fascinating, glowing radium. It’s a compelling documentation of deliberate lies and a coldness that one cannot fathom. How people can watch the suffering of others and continue to encourage them to put themselves at further risk is reprehensible. No one who reads this can fail to be shocked and horrified.  
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Heartbreaking!  This book will make you so mad yet you will not be able to put it down.  A true story of a dark time in America when companies lied to their employees and tried to deny the negative impact radium had on the human body.  sadly things like this are still happening in America but hopefully there is more support for workers than there was in the early 1900s.  I highly recommend this book to everyone!!
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We read this book for Book Club.  I couldn't bring myself to read past the first chapter, although I gave it a second try after discussing the merits of the book with other bookclub members.  All of us said it was a "tough read" for the subject matter.  I thought the book would be similar to "Girls of Atomic City" which was interesting to read and not too disturbing (although some of it was tough).  However, Radium Girls was too much for me -- as someone who makes my living writing analysis reports predicting "bad things happening", and how to prevent them, I knew that sticking radium coated paint brushes into your mouth was NOT A GOOD IDEA.  ONLY IF you have a stronger stomach for this sort of thing, I recommend the book, based on the book club's evaluation.
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Having read many wonderful reviews, it was an choice to pick up Moore’s tragic, real life story behind the young girls who painted radium on dials in the 1920s. Alas, I found myself wishing this subject matter had been as easy as the choice was to read. I’ve likely read thousands of books in my life and within the aforementioned books I’ve encountered countless deaths. It is fairly safe to assume most people ponder their own death, alongside the more macabre possibilites for the worst case scenario. Upon reading The Radium Girls, I have added a new type of death to the list of unimaginable horrors, radiation poisoning. Moore flawlessly captures the exuberant nature of youth surrounding these young vibrant workers, with the hope of their whole future still ahead of them. Previously receiving radiation training during my graduate research, I was physically cringing as the story transitioned into the girls beginning work in the radium factories. It is so hard to imagine a world in which the dangers of radiation are not known and radium was in fact thought to be a health boost. Moore weaved a story in which this relatively new substance could be perceived as magical, due to the glowing aftereffects and especially with so many influential individuals touting its benefits. Fairly quickly, these young women started presenting mysterious, terrible symptoms, eventually resulting in suffering a death beyond comprehension. Furthermore, infuriating is a vast understatement regarding the actions of the radium companies. I still cannot fathom how those men in charge could live with themselves, knowing that they had and were actively, in some cases, poisoning their workers. I can think of only a handful of books that have caused me to rant and rage for days after reading, and this topic might have superseded all others. Overall, The Radium Girls was one of the most difficult reads that I’ve ever encountered, however in literature that characteristic is far from synonymous with bad, often being quite the opposite. I’m so thankful Moore chose to tell the story of the The Radium Girls and the indescribable suffering they endured, alongside the relentless drive these women exhibited throughout their tragically shortened lives to reveal dangers of radium.
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This was an extremely sad account of the torment the women of the United States Radium Company had to endure to obtain justice for their wrongful poisoning. It’s a example of profits put before people and is heart rending. These women showed unbelievable courage in the face of adversity. This book was well written and researched. Be prepared to be saddened by the accounts of the anguish these women went through.
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Thanks to Netgalley for providing me an advanced ecopy of the book. This review is solely my opinionas an uncompensated reader. 

I was interested in this book because I first heard of the Radium Girls from my husband, an occupational health specialist. It is astounding the stuff people used to use for “health benefits” – like radium and mercury. The extensively researched story helped me get to know the women and their story much better. Their story is a landmark case in the field of industrial hygiene and what responsibilities companies have to protect their employees on the job.

Kate Moore London takes a huge amount of research and organizes it very well by date and location. The sections are Knowledge, Power, Justice. Because there are so many Radium Girls it is hard to remember who is who at first. I don’t know if the published version will have pictures or not.  I think that would be helpful.  
Sometimes London adds details that just don’t add to the story. “Later, she would marry the rather dashing Vicent L Porte, a man with piercing blue eyes who worked in advertising.” “She had married Hobart Payne, a tall, slender electrician who wore glasses, in 1922; she described him as a ‘fine husband.’ He was a man who told jokes and loved children; folks described him as a ‘very knowledgeable.’  These details and the choppiness of the words just got in the way. Editor, where art thou? Last one: “Pearl had thick dark hair and pale skin too, though she was rounder-faced and more full-figured than Catherine, and her hair was curly.”  

The terse writing does not measure up to Erik Larson, Bill Bryson, Doris Kearns Goodwin and other non-fiction writers I’ve enjoyed. “But, for Mollie, time it seemed was running out.” “Deposited inside the body, radium was the gift that kept on giving.”  “Flinn examined her elegant body carefully and took some blood.” “Sometimes the Lord works in mysterious ways.”  Let’s get beyond the sometimes sixth grade writing!

I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say these women suffered greatly from the radium poisoning. I’m not going to go into as many details as London, but one spent a summer encased in plaster from her waist to her knees in the hope of keeping her body still. Jaw bones literally disintegrated and fell out with teeth. The women couldn’t heal from surgeries and teeth extractions and had open wounds. My heart went out to them. Besides the physical suffering, they had to fight the companies in the courts.  

Towards the middle of the story, the continual use of the word “girls” bothered me. These were strong working women. In discussing this with my husband, he said it was most likely the word the press used when covering the lawsuits of the ‘Radium Girls.’ It was the historical term. I decided to let that one slide.

The story of the Radium Girls is a compelling one. Better writing, editing, and fewer superfluous details would radiate brighter with the readers. (Sorry couldn’t help it.) 

A reader’s guide is included for potential book group discussions.
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I learnt a lot from this read! I tend to read significantly more fiction, than non-fiction. However, if more non-fiction was written like The Radium Girls - that would definitely change!

Kate Moore writes with genuine humor (often also with irony) about pretty horrific events. Just think of your jaw decomposing and falling apart - one of the many negative side events of working with radium on the manner of the Radium Girls. Yet, such a horrible image is tempered with humor, and Moore's descriptions of strong, independent, determined women that I couldn't help but relate to. You will be rooting for the Radium Girls from their first introduction. 

 I would recommend this read to anyone who likes history or humor, or even just a good story about justice.
Was this review helpful?  .    I received this book as an ARC from NetGalley for an honest review. This nonfiction account of horrific results from young girls working with radium paint and putting the paintbrushes in their mouths is a sad and upsetting story.the author tells the stories of many of the young ladies working in the factories. They were all told to “dip and point” which is dipping the brush in the paint and pointing it with your mouth to get a fine point. The story follows the decline and eventual horrendous deaths of the young ladies. Everyone lied to them!  Finally, after many deaths and years of suffering., they found a lawyer who helped them sue the company.  The results of the lawsuit changed all our lives forever...
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I loved the idea of this book, but it dragged on and on until I finally stopped about halfway through.
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This is a well researched book. There is a lot of data in this book. It shows the lives and sufferings of many women and their families, friends  through many years, Lots of information about doctors, lawyers and leaders of the factories as well. (three locations) Although the characters lived almost a century ago, we are given a lot of details. The book reads like a diary.
The message for today's reader is clear : political and industrial leaders are not willing to accept scientific truth if it is in the way of their business. No matter how many lives are lost, they deny facts and care about nobody except themselves and their corporation. Unfortunately several "scientists', in this case doctors are willing to support them for their own personal gain. A horrible, but true story.
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Subtitled  "the Dark Story of America's Shining Women", the title is sufficient to spark fear - of content, of just how shocking this story can be, of more abuse against women. You get the picture.

I've read quite a dose of non-fiction lately, and this stands out.

It's not that difficult to read. Ok, some reviewers have commented that it's not a quick and easy read, and it isn't. Reading about radium poisoning was always going to be an experience for which you wanted some interruptions. But I loved the way that Kate Moore personalised these stories. She owned each one. It felt like she had tea with them, their families, their neighbours, and she understood the inflections, the uniqueness of each powerful story, and most importantly, the character of the woman who should have been alive to tell it herself.

As should be the case with a good historical account too, you should learn something about what you're reading. I hadn't realised that not only was radium not considered dangerous in those times - it was only good for you - the green juice of the times, as it were.

I couldn't read enough of these women's powerful stories, I couldn't put the book down, and I was enthralled by every minute.
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