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The Radium Girls

The Dark Story of America's Shining Women

by Kate Moore

The Radium Girls by Kate Moore X
The Radium Girls by Kate Moore
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  • First Published:
    May 2017, 496 pages
    Paperback:
    Mar 2018, 480 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs

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vtkt

An Unforgettable Book
This is a book that will stay with you long after the last page. Did your Dad have a wristwatch with a face that glowed in the dark? Mine did. Did your family have an alarm clock with glow in the dark hands--we had two. I wonder where they are now. I remember my fascination with those hands that had such a pretty green glow when everything else in the house was dark and were such a nice light turquoise in the light of day. I remember my Dad telling me about radium that made them glow and how a few years before I was born it was discovered that the young women who used to paint those hands got sick from the paint. Westclox was still making the clocks and the watches were still available so apparently it was safe now for them to be made. br /I forgot all about those things until I noticed a book called The Radium Girls had just been published and, further, Book Browse, to which I belong, was making it available to read for discussion. I applied and received the copy I just finished. It seems that, though the products were still being made and sold by the hundreds or more, back in the '50's when we owned them and Dad spoke of the findings, there was a lot more to the story of what was happening to those girls.br /The story aroused so many feelings as I read, disbelief at the callousness of the companies and the legal system. Wait, first disbelief at the illnesses that befell the dial painters, then disbelief at the companies and their executives and the lack of legal recourse for the victims. As time went on the disbelief turned to anger and heartbreak and tears of frustration. br /Two places saw the manufacture of dials--Orange, New Jersey and Ottawa, Illinois. Imagine the further disbelief when the girls in Orange won some sort of legal justice, with incredible strings attached and the girls in Ottawa were assured by THEIR employer that what happened there could not occur in Illinois. Yet, fourteen years later, another group of women found themselves in the same legal quagmire. Eventually, a triumph of sorts came and has had an effect on the present legal recourse of workers against employers. br /Still, the reader is left with sorrow, sadness, frustration but an abiding admiration for two groups of women and their spouses, children and other relatives and friends, who, though horribly ill, crippled and living with an unavoidable death sentence , fought, sometimes to their last breath for themselves and those who would follow them to the grave.br /Wait til you read the epilog--the story isn't over yet. And the tale just won't go away as you close the book and put it on a shelf. Just devastating. Especially, since this sort of thing continues--think asbestos, tobacco, opioids. And, I wonder, marijuana?
RebeccaR

History Made Heartbreaking
I knew I wanted to read this book because I was curious about a part of history which I had not heard about previously, but what I did not expect was to find the book so interesting. I hesitate to call it entertaining because it deals with such sorrow and pain, but the author is able to pull the reader into the lives of the young women. One feels as if the story is unfolding for the first time before their eyes. Sometimes people have a tendency to romanticize so-called "Good ol' Days;" this book makes it clear that there are some dark and very disturbing parts of relatively modern American history. Author Kate Moore conveys her genuine concern for the subject matter, and every chapter contains well researched and documented facts. I have already recommended the book to several friends.
Power Reviewer
Sandi W.

A story so well researched...
Such a good, but sad book. The investigation that went into this book is astounding. The author Kate Moore had to have spent every single waking minute on this book. To accumulate the facts and discover the court records and newspaper articles from the early 1900's in both New Jersey and Illinois, the transcripts and family histories, pictures and quotations, the number of documents alone had to have numbered into the thousands. Extremely well put together factual story that reads like a novel from the victims point of view. Kudos to Ms Moore.

Radium was not always known to be the deadly chemical that it is today. Many, many young women understood it to be very safe and even a wonder drug to be ingested freely. Until the young women who worked with it on a daily basis, with factories in both New Jersey and Illinois, started to become ill. Within months they lost all their teeth, their jaw bones crumbled, they started showing signs of bone cancer, losing limbs, even losing their lives. Their employer, the United States Radium Corporation (USRC), who suggested they "lip" the paint brushes they used in their job, insisted that the radium was not the cause of any of their workers ailments. It took the death of many young women and 38 years for the USRC to lawfully be deemed liable and forced to pay out benefits to any of the young women.

In the early 40's USRC factories were raised. The rubble was taken to land fills. It takes radium 1500 years to disintegrate past the point of being lethal, which means everywhere that the rubble from those buildings were spread, in both Orange, New Jersey and Ottawa Illinois and their surrounding areas, is still contaminated. Buried in the earth, under houses, close to water supplies, just waiting for the possibility to infect its next victims. In 1979 the EPA ordered the successor of USRC to start an environmental clean up in both areas. As of 2015 the radium clean up is still in process.

On the good side, this long deadly battle that our courageous fore-sisters fought brought to law the culpability of an employer being responsible for on the job safety and the beginning of the Industrial Occupational Hazards law.
michael haughton

radium girls
The Radium Girls is one of the most emotionally devastating, emotionally uplifting, roller coaster reads I have read in a very long time. I requested this book months ago and it took me forever to finish because there is just so much to take in mentally and emotionally while reading this book that I often had to set it down because I was both amazed and in tears because of what these women went through. Radium for those who don't know is a radioactive chemical that is very deadly to humans but many years ago was thought to have many uses both in home goods, health goods and beauty supplies and thought to be good for you. It was put into baby food, make up and in house hold objects until very quickly it was discovered that everyone who was exposed to it either died or became very ill from it. Radium Girls were the women who handled radium at the factory they worked and painted it on clock faces. I couldn't believe how many times they were assured that everything was fine in a time when they were discovering just how deadly it was and being allowed to handle it despite the fact that they actually glowed from it. The sad poor conditions and dismissal of such severe sickness and after effects they endured just because they were women, the company that denied any wrong doing, and the fight they had to take up to garner any attention broke my heart. Its sad to think so much of this history gets forgotten by so many and how the turn of events that led to us (women) having better treatment in the work place took so much sacrifice on their behalf. I would love to see inspiration for this book be turned into a film, I honestly think it would be an amazing movie. I highly recommend this book to anyone who hasn't read it yet.
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Book Jacket
The Radium Girls by Kate Moore

The incredible true story of the women who fought America's Undark danger.

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