The Radium Girls

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 10 Nov 2019

Member Reviews

One of the best books I've read this year. The individual stories are woven together brilliantly. Excellent narrative flow, even more impressive given that it's a nonfiction book involving legal proceedings (which often get very dry and tedious). Incredibly moving point in history that few know about.
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give me more women in history getting things done, more women in history doing interesting things and just more women in history
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Wow! What an excellent book! I don't think I ever heard of these "radium girls" and there was even a company here in Illinois that employed these dial painters, who used paint containing radium. Ths book was extremely well-researched and although this is nonfiction, most of this reads as fiction, but it is true. It was a page-turner and often kept me up somewhat later than I usually do. Definitely 5 stars.
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Thanks to NetGalley and Source Books for the ARC copy of "The Radium Girls".by Kate Moore. Our library ordered it from my suggestion.

Oddly enough, I read this book weeks after reading "The Incredible Life of Henrietta Lacks" and even though the two events occurred at slightly different times, and in different geographical areas, it was hard not to notice the cancerous strings of similarity between the two histories.

I am all for healthy business and the progress of medicine and health, but it becomes more obvious that we are all a part of a horrible experiment assembled by a capitalistic society that has moved too far from humanity.

It is interesting to note that protections for humans that evolved from these tragic events are being rolled back for the convenience of escaping regulations, not caring if there is no one left to buy their poisoned goods.

What a world. Excellent story, and it remains in circulation through our library system.
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Ever read a book that changes your perspective? Because this book totally did that for me. I work in a highly regulated industry, that is, the medical field. I do quarterly education that is often repatative in nature about how to deal with hazardous chemicals, and blah blah blah OSHA and blah blah blah safety. I go through the information in a pretty much perfunctionary way.

I think I'll be paying a little bit closer attention from now on, though. 

Guys, these women. These... these women. They were amazing. So amazing. Every single person on the face of the earth owes them a debt of gratitude. The hell that they went through kept everyone on this planet from going through a worse one. If not for the effects of radium being discovered by their sometimes painful and horrible deaths, radiation could have spread throughout the earth before anyone even knew there WERE negative side effects. The companies that were complicit in their deaths are the reason now why companies can't get away with that kind of thing as easily. They changed laws, they changed lives, and I'd never even heard of any of them.

Their stories are told with obvious love and reverence by the author, Kate Moore. I hope it becomes a movie like Hidden Figures. Everyone should at least know about their sacrifices. I would encourage everyone to read this book and remember their names, they deserve it.
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Very detailed, personal story of the women who worked for Radium Dial in the early 1920s. What girl didn't want to work there? Pay was better than their own father's made, you worked with your best gals, you could wear your nice clothes, and at the end of the day, you GLOWED. Literally. The radium paint would get in their hair, on their clothes- some even painted their teeth and lips with it as a surprise for their beaus later that night. What no one knew was exposure to radium would lead to radium poisoning, and the painful, slow death of dozens of young women, in the prime of their lives.
This book is different than other books written about the Radium Girls. While it does go into great detail of the cover up  and fights between owners, lawyers, and doctors, it also spends a great deal of time going over the individual girls themselves. Their friends, their loves, their families, and the agonizing deaths they had to endure.
While at times, the details were almost too minuscule and slowed the overall pace of the book, it is still a wonderful read.
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I met the author at Book Expo this year.  This book is fabulous!  So sad what the girls went through and what the company did to them.  Wonderfully written.  The amount of research that went into this book is evident.  I bought a copy of the book for a friend, and also got one free from NetGalley, and another signed at Book Expo.  The cover is gorgeous.
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This was a heart-wrenching read that had the end result of creating laws regarding the workplace.  This book follows the women who worked with Radium in both Illinois and New Jersey at facilities that worked on timepieces and dials.  The overwhelming mantra at both facilities was lip-dip-paint.  These women were covered in powdered Radium and they were ingesting it without being told how harmful it was.  Yet despite having teeth fall out and other ailments, these women still went to work.  The pay was more than any other women were making at other places, so these were lucrative jobs to have.  This book is about their fight for the employer to help them pay for the medical care they needed as a result of Radium poisoning.  

Thank you to Net Galley and the publisher for an advanced copy of this book.
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I had the opportunity to read The Radium Girls by Kate Moore through NetGalley. It was a disturbing and fascinating book. Although the dangerous properties of radium were known to the Curies who discovered it, there was a general denial by the population of its dangers. The companies that used radium to paint watch dials to make them glow in the dark did not give any warnings to their employees. Women would routinely drip paint brushes with radium into their mouths before applying the paint to the dials. When the women were finally examined after years of exposure, radium had penetrated so deeply into their tissues they literally glowed in the dark. 
The author lays out a timeline of the commercial use of radium. She introduces the women who worked painting the dails. She details their health and lives before starting to work at the plant. Ms. Moore also explains the process in which different workers in different positions were exposed. As the workers begin to show signs of various illness, they sought help from a medical field that did not understand radiation poisoning. Many girls were unable to work anymore due to illness. The statute of limitations for work related illnesses was only five months. By the point the women began to realize their illness was work related, more than five months had passed since they were employed.
The book is fascinating in the wonderful way Ms. Moore makes the women truly present. The reader begins to care about the women because of the wonderful way Ms. Moore tells their story. You feel their frustration with not being able to find answers as they are suffering greatly. You admire their persistence in pursuing a legal case to stop the company’s negligence. 
The book is disturbing in the level of the cover up by the company. The smear campaign included telling the public that the real cause of the illnesses was syphilis. They painted the women as suffering from a venereal disease and ruined their reputations. The legal system was a Goliath that they sick women needed to defeat.
I recommend reading The Radium Girls. Like HIdden Figures, it is a book that tells a story that we need to know. We need to hear about these women who had the presence of mind to document their stories and make sure their stories were shared from generation to generation. Laws now in place to protect employees and give them access to information about dangerous conditions are because of the legal challenges of women. That is their legacy. 
The audio version is narrated by Angela Brazil. I obtained it through Hoopla Digital and my local library system. Ms. Brazil does a nice job.
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Radium Girls delves into the the glossed-over history of the "lucky" WWI factory girls to obtain the coveted positions as watch-face painters. The book is equally fascinating and gruesome as more and more young women succumb to the true horror of radium-induced illness and death. I had to put the book down several times due to how truly horrible their stories are. The piece is meticulously researched and absolutely riveting. Kudos to Moore for the exposing this often-buried, but incredibly important part of our collective history.
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I found this book is so sad and heartbreaking, an eye opening for me at the same time. I had never heard of the radium girls and this book explain them so well. I was angry, sad and hurt while reading this book. Not an easy book to read.

I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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Well written, compelling read documenting the story of the women who worked with radium and then who became seriously ill.
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I never expected a nonfiction novel to be so moving and gripping. I could not read this novel in one sitting; I had to take multiple pauses because it was just so emotional. I didn't know much about this topic before I began reading. I had just thought that this was an interesting event that involved radium, a substance I'm familiar with through my course work. I got so much more than that through this book. The author creates a vivid story that looks at the lives of all of these women, full of their hopes and dreams and despairs. It shows all of the different people involved that either hindered or aided in justice being meted out. There was so much courage and strength portrayed here and the author made the reader care about every single woman mentioned in the story; they weren't just names but real people that I could connect with. While the novel was definitely more in favor of the women than the radium companies (which totally makes sense!), I was happy to see that the author did take into account the reasons why the companies did what they did; it didn't make me sympathetic to them on any account but it did make an attempt to give a more well-rounded picture of the scandal. This was a gripping story where I was on the edge of my seat, wondering how the women would get past each obstacle thrown in their way. The best thing about this story was the message of perseverance and hope and bravery that these women showed in every facet of their lives; they may have been dying but they wouldn't give up on living and fighting. It made me feel so proud to see all that they accomplished even after facing such adversity. I can honestly say that I have never felt this emotionally invested in a novel before. What an amazing story and the author did such a brilliant job of making it relevant and appealing to the masses. This is definitely a nonfiction book you don't want to miss out on!
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A riveting and thoroughly researched history of the young American women whose lives were irreversibly changed by radium. During World War I, dozens of young women, some still teenagers, were hired to paint dials numbers and hands with a magical substance called radium. No one told them it was toxic. The numbers and hands were so small, the girls only had one option to get the brush fine enough to paint them properly: put them in their mouths.

Lip, dip, paint. Over and over again.

When the girls started getting sick, no one could figure out the cause. It took some time before anyone even considered that what they did at the factory could be the cause. And when even a hint of blame was placed on the radium, the company worked as hard as it could to divert the blame to something, anything else.

It took decades for the young women, many of whom had died horrible, painful deaths decades before they were meant to pass, to get justice. Moore tells the never-before-heard story in painstaking detail. Truly an incredible book.
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As World War I began, the military needed luminous dials to help the soldiers at night. Answering the call to make these dials were hundreds of young women who were lured in by higher than normal wages. Made with radium, a substance we now know to be harmful, these women were instructed to use their mouths to get a fine point on the brushes they used to paint the numerals. They were never told that radium could kill them. Years later in two towns, eight hundred miles apart, these workers began to get horrifically ill and die.  They refused to go down without a fight and bravely fought the companies who had poisoned them.  It is because of these extraordinary women that we have OSHA and safe guards in place for handling radioactive material. 
One of the reasons I wanted to read this book was that the town I live in, Ottawa, Illinois, was home to several of these women who were affected by the negligent Radium Dial company.  In 2011, the city unveiled a statue honoring these women, which put the story in my mind but I never followed up on any personal research.  Imagine my surprise to learn that the studio was located less than one block from my apartment and that I drove past the property millions of times without knowing it's history. Or that a house blocks from me was once the residence of Catherine Wolfe, who led the fight to win compensation from Radium Dial. 
I alternated between anger and horror reading this book. I was angry because these women were murdered by companies who knew radium was dangerous but yet the companies kept that information from their workers. I was horrified by how much these women suffered as the radium slowly killed them. There were several times when I had to put the book away because it was so overwhelming.
It is very obvious from the moment you start reading this book, that Moore has done extensive research into these women’s lives. Moore writes so well and with such consideration to a heartbreaking story that I felt like these women had come back from the past to personally tell me their story.  Moore has written a beautiful tribute to these women that will help them live on for future generations to read and learn about. Anyone interested in history would enjoy this fantastic book.
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This book can be a very hard read.  That should be expected given the content: a number of women who were unknowingly poisoned by their workplace. But the room Kate Moore gives the women's stories, the descriptions of their illnesses, is heartbreaking.  At times, the sheer number of women affected is overwhelming, yet even if all that is taken away is the magnitude of the Radium Corporations indifference to the suffering of their former workers, and the lengths the women were willing to go to make things right, I think this book is a success.
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These true stories about the radium poisoning suffered by workers, almost all women, in the clock and instrument making industry's early days tell the sad story of workplace dangers and the consequences of not knowing or accepting the hazards. The Radium Girls also relates one of the earliest cases of employers being held responsible for not protecting their workers. Their tragic stories influenced the laws in this country to better protect workers.
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I managed to finish this book in one of my off days because it was absolutely gripping and once again, I'm shocked by how little I know (everyone should know about this!)

During WWI, there were radium companies that employed girls (often teenagers or just out of their teens!) to paint dials with radium. The pay was by piece, which meant that the very skilled could take home quite a lot, and the girls quickly grew to be very close. Plus, America was in the midst of a radium craze where anything radium was considered to be healthy. So the fact that this girls were in contact with so much radium they glowed in the dark was an added bonus, right?


Radium is a radioactive substance and prolonged exposure to it killed many of these girls. The deaths were slow and painful, as their bones crumbled and they developed cancer (many of the girls' jawbones broke and their wounds wouldn't heal). The radium poisoning was made worse by the fact that these women used their mouths to help shape the brushes that were dipped in radium. So not only were they covered in radium, they were ingesting it! And because radium was so new and there was so little research, the doctors couldn't figure out what was wrong with them at first. When they did, however, the company that employed them denied all responsibility and did their best not to pay them compensation.

But these women were brave and tenacious, despite all the pain they were in, and they fought the companies in the courts and basically helped change safety standards, laws, and raised awareness of the dangers of radium. Oh, and their work helped saved the lives of soldiers during the war so they were basically heroes many times over.

The radium girls is an engrossing, well-written book that focuses on the girls and their stories. The author has clearly done a lot of research, and she has managed to tell the story of the individual girls without losing sight of the broader picture. Although the book is fairly long, it felt short and I just couldn't put it down. I'd recommend this to EVERYONE because it is a story that needs to be heard.

Disclaimer: I got a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a free and honest review.
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This is the one non-fiction book of 2017 that everyone needs to read.
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Kate Moore’s well-researched true story tells us of the lives of the “shining girls” condersided the luckiest girls alive to have found the most coveted jobs using the “wonder” substance radium to paint dials.  We learn of their feelings of joy, excitement, and independence at having such glamorous jobs, to them becoming ill and their bodies starting to deteriorate and then some to their deaths.  To others realizing their jobs are causing their illness, to their fight against the companies and their legal battles and then for some realizing they are going to die.  
Moore doesn’t shy away from the vivid details of the agonizing deaths and suffering the women went through and it’s not for the faint hearted.  I think that might be me as I found the torment they went through relentless and their agonizing suffering and the deaths after deaths started to become too overwhelming for me.  Some of what I was reading just became a blur to me and at times I just wanted to get through the book.  
As much as the girls suffering broke my heart, the greed, dishonesty and the refusal to protect the young women from the danger was shocking and angered me. 

I think Radium Girls was one of the most unsettling books I have read and even though I did not enjoy it, I am glad I read it.  The courage and tenacity of the women is an important story that needed to be told and Kate Moore is remarkable to have told it and honoring the women and their deaths by doing so.  

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher Sourcebooks for a copy to read and review.
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