Cover Image: The Radium Girls

The Radium Girls

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Member Reviews

"Lip... Dip....Paint" 

Over and over and over again. These women did their part to support themselves and their families, while slowly poisoning themselves. 

This book is powerful, heartbreaking and vitally important. Radium was a miraculous substance, it was a wonder drug for medicine and had unlimited uses. Most importantly, there was money to be made and no warnings, no research, just free for all use.

The stories of these women should never be forgotten, for their sacrifice has led to so many of the modern day laws on worker safety that we all benefit from. They should not have had to suffer in this way. They should not have had to wait for a white male to die before anyone took them seriously. They should not have been pawns in money making corporate cover-ups. 

I wish there had been more justice. I wish that there had been criminal charges against all the owners and everyone involved. It is not right and it is deeply disturbing.
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I read this EARC courtesy of Net Galley and Sourcebooks.  Pub date May 2017

I first became acquainted with this phenomenon in the book "The Poisoner's Handbook" by Deborah  Blum.  Prior to reading that book, I knew that Radium was an element discovered by the Cures, but I didn't know of its potential destructive powers.  I don't think I knew that it glowed.

Putting faces and words with the faces of The Radium Girls, Kate Moore has brought them to life.  And to death.  She has brought to the forefront, once again, the greed of business owners who profit at the expense of their employees.  She shows us tenacious fighters who keep up the attack until their bodies will no longer permit it, and the selflessness of these girls who, even in death, are allowed by their families to be ongoing subjects for research into the effects of internalizing radioactive material.
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This book was riveting.  I read it in one day with growing horror and amazement. My highest compliment is that is non-fiction that reads better than fiction. The stories of the doomed radium girls stayed with me long after I finished reading.  Anyone who thinks their is too much government regulation hurting business, should read this.  In fact, after their ordeal was made public, OSHA was formed.  The terrible injustice dealt to these brave women is a story that needs to be told over and over.  We can thank the author for bringing this deplorable and heart-breaking story to light.
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While I appreciate the level of detail included in this book, there are so many women and the author moves through their cases quite rapidly, which makes the middle section with most of the litigation and court back and forths more boring since the reader didn't have as much of a chance to connect with a lot of the women.

That being said, this is a fascinating and terrible story of these young women and how women are often not believed when it comes to health issues, not to mention the lengths corporations will go to denying wrongdoing. Those aspects, as well as the beginnings of the workplace safety movement, were interesting. Also, getting a snapshot of the "health" of radium was horrifying, but still relevant given how many  false "health" ideas that people still believe (though much less dangerous than radioactive materials).

Despite my enjoyment of those aspects, the legal back and forth about 70% through was just too much and I found myself skimming quickly and not enjoying the novel, so I've put it down for now at least.
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I received a free advance review e-copy of this book and have chosen of my own free will to post a review.  This is an incredible and tragic story of how some very brave young women fought denial and greed on the part of big business.  There was radium in the paint these young women used to paint dials for watches etc. beginning during WW I.    These young women began to show signs of bone deterioration, tumors, etc. which eventually led to death in many of them at a very young age.  They had been instructed to tip the brushes with their lips.  It was a very long uphill fight for these women to prove that the radium contained in the paint was the cause of their illnesses and to finally obtain a settlement.  They refused to be silenced.  It is because of these women that we have safety standards in the workplace today. This is an incredibly well written true story and it is obvious that the author has done a great deal of research. Kate Moore writes this horrific story with a great deal of compassion and empathy.  ‘The Radium Girls’ is a book everyone should read.
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Dang was this an infuriating read. I was completely enthralled, even though I knew nothing good was to come. I did not know of the Radium Girls but now I do and so does anyone that enters a conversation with me in the foreseeable future. I do wish there had been pictures in the ebook version I read.
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Wow. I’m not sure where to begin. I’d heard rumblings about this book, then I saw it on NetGalley and decided to request it. I was a little put off by how long it was, and although I still think there was more detail than was necessary, I read right to the end because of the story.

In the early part of the 20th century, radium was believed to be a wonder drug, and was used for all kinds of health ailments. It was also discovered that a radium-based paint could be used to paint the dials of watches so that they would glow in the dark. At the start of World War I, these watches were in high demand, and the women who were employed as dial painters were sought after, and well paid, for their work. The work required a very fine-tipped brush to do the precision work, and the women were taught put the tip of the brushes into their mouths to make the tips even finer. Not only were they ingesting radium each time they did this, they were covered in the dust, and often glowed from the material that settled on their clothing and bodies.

Soon, many dial painters started experiencing mysterious illnesses, particularly issues with their teeth, jaws, and bones. The companies learned early on that perhaps radium wasn’t as safe as they had originally thought, but did nothing, and denied that these women were sick with any workplace-related ailment. The cover-up continued as more women because sick, and started dying, and were unable to take on the powerful corporations who continued to lie about the medical test results.

This book is quite graphic in its descriptions; the effects of radium poisoning were horrific, and the suffering these women experienced was terrible. Still, although it was a sad and infuriating read, it’s important to shed light on this piece of history. In many ways I was reminded of how I felt when I read Hidden Figures or The Immortal Life of Henrietta Laks; these were women whose stories have had a significant impact on our history, but of whom we’ve never heard.  For that reason alone, I encourage readers to give this one a try.

4/5 stars
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As the author commented in her foreword to this book, there has been much written about the effects of Radium and the struggle of the Radium industry but this book set forth to tell the story about the women who were involved with the fight.  Those who were lied to and secretly poisoned under the guise of well paying jobs painting watch dials of all things.  Moore does a great job of painting a portrait of these young women who spent their precious twenties battling rotting bones and constant pain instead of marrying and having children.  She documents the legal battle that seemed impossible to get someone - anyone - to pay attention to the fact that young girls were suffering and dying from ailments never seen before.  I cringe to think of the demoralizing, dehumanizing effect this had on these ladies at a time when Women's Rights were just fledgling ideas.  

While I am grateful to the publisher, author and Netgalley for this advanced copy of the book, my eBook did not include many of the photos that I subsequently went looking for on internet searches.  A special thank  you to the brave women who fought against odds and brought about lasting changes in worker's rights and safety measures that saved untold thousands from similar fates.
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This book was really hard to read, while also being hard to put down.  The descriptions of what happened to these women are horrific; I had nightmares after reading this.  But it’s an important part of our history.  Where would we be without the ground breaking legal battles that these brave women fought?  They illuminated the way for future worker’s rights.  With The Radium Girls, Kate Moore brings history to life.  I truly felt like I got to know the women whose stories are being told here.  At one point I was so into what I was reading that I literally burned water.  Seriously, I was beginning dinner, making rice and the pot boiled dry while I was reading.  There were flames.  
     It took me about 5 hours to read The Radium Girls, and I did nothing else while reading it.  I had to finish, to find out what happened to these women, and make sure they got the justice they deserved.  If you like history, or enjoy the safety laws that keep you safe at your job, I strongly recommend The Radium Girls.
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My experience with this book was an interesting mix of incredulous fascination and frustration. The details of the women's experiences while excitedly starting new jobs, coating themselves in radium paint without concern, suffering the results of absorbing the radium, and fighting for justice through the courts system quickly caught and completely held my attention. The main focus of the book is biographical in how it emphasizes the experiences, relationships, and legal battles of the women involved. This emphasis made for a strong emotional impact, even though it sometimes became hard to keep track of the individuals among the many women described. Even with the biographical focus, the story is still packed with a multitude of nearly unbelievable facts about the uses of radium and its effects on the human body. There is plenty of opportunity for frustration and anger when reading about the horrible reactions of the companies to the women's deteriorating health and legal claims. Yet, in the end, there is a hopeful message due to the scientific and legal legacy of these determined women.
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During a time when often female physical complaints were brushed off or made to see as less than important, these women, these radium girls were ingesting a poison that was replacing the calcium in their bones and eating them away from the inside. Author Kate Moore has really outdone herself with this book. Well researched and yet far from dry, she paints the picture of these women who trusted their employers to keep them safe and paid for that with their lives. This book is definitely one of the best nonfiction books I’ve read. It shows the 1920s not as some hedonistic last bash before the Great Depression but real people with real lives. There are a whole slew of facts and interesting bits that I really want to learn more about, and I have to give kudos to Moore for being able to give all the facts and keep it from bogging down the storyline or worse bogging down the reader. I would recommend this to people who are interested in the discovery of new science and its effects on the population of the time.
*This eBook was provided by NetGalley and Sourcebooks in exchange for honest feedback**
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A highly readable account of women who worked in dial painting factories at the beginning of the 20th century. As they began to get suffer the effects of radium poisoning, the women and their families worked for justice.
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Thank you, Kate Moore, for telling this heart-rending, terrifying story of brave women who fought to value human health over corporate greed, and in so doing, set in motion ground-breaking legislation protecting American workers. From the prologue to the final epilogue, reading "The Radium Girls" is like watching - and feeling - a train wreck in slow motion. Moore has taken a mind-boggling amount of research and presented a historical record that reads like a novel by focusing on the personal experience of the women doomed to death by radium poisoning as a result of their dial-painting jobs. The book also includes a study guide with provocative questions that will intrigue any reader, further deepening the impact of the story: for example, would action and recompense have come sooner if men had been the victims? Overall, "The Radium Girls" is a cautionary tale about the disastrous consequences when science, industry, law, and morality fail to communicate and work with each other to safeguard the value of human life.

I was provided a pre-pub copy of this book by for my honest review.
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This is a deeply personal story and one I instantly connected with. I'm not an avid reader of non fiction so going into this I didn't know how I'd feel. But I absolutely loved it. There's a rawness and a sincerity about this book and about the women whose lives are being told. It's honest and real and it doesn't just focus on their illnesses and their fight against the dial-painting companies but it tells their story from before they fell ill - how some of them liked to dress and treat themselves to bags and hats. How one woman was deeply religious, while another loved to laugh and others liked to dance. I found out about the men who loved them and literally had to watch as they fell to pieces in front of them, the children they left behind and the relatives they inadvertently spread the radiation to in their sleep.

This book made me smile in companionship with the young women living their lives and falling in love and also grit my teeth in anger at the big wigs who refused to accept their responsibility in harming the women. Their fight to stay alive for justice, not just for themselves but for the other girls, as well as how their husbands and siblings looked after them made me want too cry. This book was so touching but held such a great respect and admiration for the women as well. They were fighters, and we owe so much to them today.
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This was an exceptionally thorough look into the lives of the Radium Girls and the impact exposure had on their lives.  The legal struggles and workplace safety issues were laid out in great detail.  The book brought these folks to life, and made the challenge real.  I felt like I was living in the community and literally watching these women deteriorate -- which did make reading it depressing at times.  Insightful and incisive, and directly relevant to anyone working with potentially hazardous chemicals/conditions at work.  The EPA talks about acceptable risks, and I can understand that risks are always there, but this puts a face on even the small risks.  The book could have used photographs throughout, showing the women and newspaper accounts.  Overall, a 5-star work about women who never gave up and dealt with personal tragedy with aplomb and grace.  Highly recommended.
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Radium – a miracle material that would change lives for the better. Endow those who used it with good health and well-being. Allow companies to use it in products that would revolutionize technology. But, no! Discovered by the Curies, its properties were little understood by those clamoring to use it in so many different ways.  This title describes the use of radium during WWI, to illuminate watch and other instrumentation to assist soldiers in the field. What a worthy endeavor! The NJ manufacturer (and others) required young girls who had a steady hand to meticulously paint these dials. The salary was excellent and so was the prestige. Where else could a young woman find a job like this that afforded her wages to contribute to her family, buy stylish clothes and make friends with similar girls in an atmosphere of dedication and camaraderie? The young women were instructed to paint the dials efficiently and carefully. The best method to accomplish this was the “dip and lip,” placing the brush in the material then in the mouth to obtain the finest tip. It was also fun to use material to be-glitter ones face or sometimes the substance would spill on their clothes. At night the girls would often glow on their way home.

The author introduces the reader to numerous girls in the first part of her book. She describes them in their youth, demeanor and home circumstances. Initially, the similarity between the girls made it difficult to latch onto anyone in particular. Later as the first part concludes, the illnesses and maladies of the girls, recounted in gruesome accuracy, made visualizing them all too real. Although they were all living near the factory, their symptoms did not appear simultaneously nor manifest their illness in similar ways. This is the middle section of the book, where doctors, dentists and other medical professionals seek to discover how these vibrant girls, now women, became so devastated so soon.

The last third of the book is concerned with the legal fight. Were the manufacturers willfully liable and complicit? Could the remaining girls receive recompense after so many years from their first employment, diagnoses and beginning court case? What about those who died? What were these effects not only on the girls, but also on their families? 

The book unveils important issues regarding women in the workplace, safety, worker’s rights, and, legal and medical challenges to professionals. It also reveals the courage of these women who sought answers and attempted to help each other in the pursuit of justice. Rough reading, but recommended.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the opportunity to review this title.
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Thank you NetGalley and Sourcebooks publishing for the non-fictional book The Radium Girls;
The Dark Story of America's Shining Women, by Kate Moore. This true and detailed story, of the dial painting factory workers of this glamorous glowing substance, Radium, is heartbreaking and heroic. Takes place in the early 1900's, when this magical element was gaining popularity. The consequences of the exposure to the radioactive Radium took devastating toll on these bright young ladies and their families. This is a story of their careers, their agony, desperation, and the very long journey to justice. A true eye-opener!
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I had never heard about the Radium Girls until given the opportunity to read this book. I was blown away about how everything awful that was happening to these girls was ignored. I read this book in small pieces because honestly it took a lot out of me knowing that these girls were fighting for their lives and for others and were being ignored. I actually recently saw a discussion on facebook about this story and was shocked that people are still to this day saying it is a fake story. These girls' stories need to be told and I am so glad that I could become more educated on what happened to them.
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