The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America's Shining Women

The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America's Shining Women

by Kate Moore


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781492649359
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Publication date: 04/18/2017
Pages: 496
Sales rank: 85,540
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 8.80(h) x 1.80(d)
Lexile: 980L (what's this?)

About the Author

Kate Moore is a New York Times best selling writer with more than a decade's experience writing and ghosting across varying genres, including memoir, biography, and history. In 2015 she directed a critically acclaimed play about the Radium Girls called 'These Shining Lives.' She lives in the UK. Visit her at

Table of Contents

List of Key Characters xiii

Prologue xvii

Part 1 Knowledge 1

Part 2 Power 145

Part 3 Justice 281

Epilogue 378

Postscript 398

Author's Note 401

Acknowledgments 406

Reading Group Guide 410

Picture Acknowledgments 412

Abbreviations 414

Notes 416

Select Bibliography 462

Index 468

About the Author 478

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The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America's Shining Women 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 31 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Like The Cancer Ward and the muck raking books of the last century the book is a window in to the dangers of the unknown, the unstudied, and the abilities of corporate money to deny workers justice.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A fascinating piece of hitory many are unaware of and written in a spellbinding way to keep the reader hooked on the stories of these courageous women.
Rosemary-Standeven More than 1 year ago
Times have changed, and with them our understanding of toxicity. In the 1920’s “on sale were radium jockstraps and lingerie, radium butter, radium milk, radium toothpaste and even a range of Radior cosmetics”. The radium factory girls wore “their good dresses to the plant so that they would become luminous when they went out to parties later.” After all, radium was safe. Except radium was never safe – and that had been known since very soon after its discovery in 1898. But no-one thought to tell the girls working with radium every day. “They put the brush to their lips, … dipped it in the radium … and painted the dials. It was a ‘lip, dip, paint routine’ … all day long”. The idea of being in a room with an unshielded radioactive source I find frightening enough, but to put a brush that has been in contact with radium into one’s mouth just fills me with a visceral horror. But much worse was to come. The book introduces you to several groups of vivacious, attractive young women, aged fourteen to about thirty. All with their lives ahead of them, their hopes for the future, their loves, their friends, their community – and then describes how, one by one, they sicken, prematurely age and die. They suffered months, years of excruciating pain, mouths filled with pus, teeth dropping out, jawbone disintegrating, huge bone tumours, physical deformities … And that was not the worst. The women could not get a diagnosis for what ailed them. It was apparent that something was wrong, but they could not get the factory executives to take them seriously, nor the doctors or dentists to really investigate the sicknesses: “they didn’t share notes, and so each case was viewed in isolation”. And every visit to the doctor or dentist cost money – lots of money. The sick women could no longer work – indeed some were fired for looking ill – so money became an increasingly acute problem. Then in the Great Depression, their husbands and fathers lost their work. In Ottawa “the women had split the town—and the disapproval went right to the top, with ‘business interests, politicians, and the clergy’ all against the women bringing suit” against one of the few remaining employers in the region. The radium companies lied, back-tracked, and did everything they could to discredit the women. Their so-called company doctor was a fraud, they hid evidence, and refused to put safety measures into place for the women still working in their factories. The women’s fight for justice took years, time that many of the women did not have. Their tenacity and heroism in a fight against overwhelming odds was awe inspiring. They were not seeking a huge pay out, but an acknowledgement of their suffering, and funds to cover their medical expenses. They continued to fight through the courts, even when literally on their death beds. Some helped from beyond the grave. This book made me sick to the stomach to read what these women had to endure – and so, so angry – but through their fight and dedication, we have stringent safety measures today covering all use of radioactive substances. They left their mark on legislation relating to occupational health, on international nuclear treaties, and on our understanding of the health risks of radioactivity. The Radium Girls left behind a monumental legacy – not just for their colleagues and their towns, but for the whole world. I received this copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Well researched, and gripping. A little known piece of history that massively influenced workplace safety. It was heart breaking and inspiring.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The atrocities these women suffered unfortunately prove the inhuman forces of greed. The tenacious spirit of the sufferers prove that human inner strength becomes immortal.
Sam1219 More than 1 year ago
I am voluntarily submitting my honest review after receiving an ARC of this ebook from NetGalley. The Radium Girls is so brilliantly awful that it is a must read for everyone, regardless of your preferences in genre. This is the story of the outright murder of young women in the pursuit of profit. Despite mountains of evidence proving that radium is a dangerous substance, young women were told it was safe to paint watch dials with it with no protection at all. The workers are even tested for radiation poisoning, with their results sorted by those most likely to die first, yet the women are not informed of these test results. In one of the most memorable scenes painted, a young worker even licks the brush she uses to paint radium onto watch dials to increase her accuracy as instructed! The crime itself is so shocking that if the author gets a little too passionate in the hard sell of the disgusting callousness of the corporate executioners of these workers at times, it is easy to forgive her. This book is a haunting account of the price these women paid for corporate greed and a shocking account of the depths of depravity humans are capable of sinking to in pursuit of the almighty dollar. It is a book that should linger long after reading it as a powerful reminder to humanity of what can so easily happen again if we relax our guard in this era of willful abandon of regulation designed to protect us from such depravity, deceit and greed. BUY THIS BOOK!!!
SUEHAV More than 1 year ago
I'm 70 years old and live in NJ. Cannot believe i've never heard about this before! Best book I've read in a long time.
Anonymous 3 months ago
Anonymous 11 months ago
Loved this book. I never knew any of these women existed. I have read it twice and it amazed me both times. High recommend to any science and history lover.
Anonymous 11 months ago
The book is amazing, I learned so much and felt so bad over the horror these poor women and girls went through. This should definitely be made into a movie.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Well written and terrifying, how far we've come in protecting workers. These women are heroes, what an honor to know their stories,
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This has to be the horrific and fascinating history I have read in a long time. Wonderfully written and does justice to the brave women.
TheLiteraryPhoenix More than 1 year ago
This is a powerful book. History is important because it tells the story of humanity. These women are not part of the author's imagination - they are beautiful tragic souls. Each woman in this book chose to stand up and fight in the face of something that felt impossible. Despite their pain, despite their ultimate demise, they chose to fight to change the law and save the women who came after them. That takes strength. Kate Moore does a wonderful job of telling these stories. The best non-fiction reads like a novel, because it takes the facts and makes it into a story that stays in your heart. It resonates with you. The Radium Girls speaks for itself, even when the women can no longer do so. It's an incredible, horrible story and one of the best non-fiction books I've ever read. Read it, and be prepared for a broken heart.
TheLiteraryPhoenix More than 1 year ago
This is a powerful book. History is important because it tells the story of humanity. These women are not part of the author's imagination - they are beautiful tragic souls. Each woman in this book chose to stand up and fight in the face of something that felt impossible. Despite their pain, despite their ultimate demise, they chose to fight to change the law and save the women who came after them. That takes strength. Kate Moore does a wonderful job of telling these stories. The best non-fiction reads like a novel, because it takes the facts and makes it into a story that stays in your heart. It resonates with you. The Radium Girls speaks for itself, even when the women can no longer do so. It's an incredible, horrible story and one of the best non-fiction books I've ever read. Read it, and be prepared for a broken heart.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great read.... A moment in time ALL BUT IGNORED... WHO KNEW? I found this informative and heart wrenching. Sad but historic account of corporate political coverup and the TRIUMPHS/TRAGEDIES of the doomed radium girls...
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Personalizes the struggles and horrifying suffering of these young women who battled gender & social inequality, corporate greed and government indifference seeking justice.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
ReadingwithErin More than 1 year ago
What we don't know could kill us. Thank you to Netgalley and Sourcebooks for an e-arc in exchange for my honest review. "All of the Katherine's life, radium had been a magnificent cure-all, treating not just cancer, but hay fever, gout, constipation.. anything you could think of. Pharmacists sold radioactive dressings and pills; there was also radium clinics and spas." In the 1910's companies started popping up in america that painted clock dials using radium to make them glow. It was a good paying job and many women started working there including girls as young as fourteen. They would paint the radium on the clock's using a "lip, dip, paint" method, where they would literally be putting the radium covered paint brush in there mouth in order to make the tip as fine as possible so they would only get paint on the numbers and no where else. They were told this was completely safe, and that the small amount of radium they were getting was good for them and was actually going to make them healthier. "We used to paint our eyebrows, our lips, and our eyelashes, and then look at ourselves in the darkroom." But the truth was they weren't just ingesting the radium, it was going everywhere else as well which they could see when they went to the companies dark room. They literally glowed from head to toe, and they thought it was great fun. Some of them even purposefully would wear there best dresses to work in order to be able to glow that night when they went out on the town. Some companies even encourage the women to take some home in order to practice with it, meaning not only were they getting exposed to it at work, but now at home as well also putting their families at risk. Most of the women didn't start getting sick until after they had left the company or if they did start showing signs of being sick while working they were let go. This doesn't mean that they didn't have concerns about the radium though, as time went on more and more of them started to notice things and questioned the companies. But time and time again they were assured that the radium was harmless and that the other women were sick for reasons outside of work. "Hope. That was all he really wanted, to know that there was light at the end of the tunnel; that they could get through this and come out the other side into a shining day, and another one, and another day after that." Another big problem was is that the small town doctors as well as big city doctors had no idea what was wrong with the ones that were sick. So instead the women were spending hundred of dollars on treatment that not only wasn't helping, but at times was making things even worse. The women and their families were determined to find out what was happening to them and how it could be fixed, no matter the price. Thousands of dollars were spent with no hope in sight for the women to be pain free or to even survive it seemed. With the help of determined city doctors and a lawyers that were determined to win their cases. They were finally able to have a little bit of relief financially and physically.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
What a fascinating and heartbreaking story. I didn’t want to put it down once I had started reading!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I couldn't put this book down. Fascinating and hearbreaking. We can still learn a lot from this story.
stickerooniDM More than 1 year ago
I don't typically have a problem with my blood pressure, but reading this book got my blood boiling. This well-researched non-fiction book takes a look at the dark side of a once-glowing industry. During the first World War there was a demand for watches and clocks and other instruments with glowing dials. The Radium Dial Company in New Jersey set up shop and become one of the biggest producers of glowing dials and numbers and hands for watches and clocks. The glowing paint was made with a combination of phosphor and radium - a relatively new source (at least a new form of radium [with a half-life of 10,000 years - though that wasn't known at the time]). The girls (women were hired, like with many jobs, because the men were serving in the military) were paid by the dial and precision was as important as speed and the girls were taught to take a fine brush, bring it to a tight point by using their lips, then dip in the phosphor/radium paint, and paint. Repeat. They were assured, time and again, that the paint was completely safe and they even laughed and played with the fact that they would glow in the dark themselves. And because they were paid by the dial, they often ate their lunches at their work table in order to be more productive. This isn't a mystery, though...the reader knows what's coming. Soon the girls start to experience unusual aches and pains. Local doctors haven't seen these sorts of things and the wasting away of the girls is attributed to a number of things, including venereal disease. And when a death certificate says that the cause was from a sexual disease, it's pretty hard to pin it on the business and get due compensation from them. Because the radium was ingested by the mouth it attacked the bones in the jaw first, in most cases (radium eats away from the inside and destroys bone tissue). Therefore, it was often dentists who first noticed the effects and it was a specialist in New York City who really uncovered the problem. And though that in itself was a long (and painful) process (too late for some), it was only the beginning of the problems workers at Radium Dial Company (and another plant in Illinois) would face. Denial by the company owners and management continued long into and throughout legal processes. And this is where my anger tuned in. I wanted to get up and punch Radium Dial owners in the nose. The lies, the deceit, the cover-up. It all seemed so clear (in hindsight) that they knew (or at the very least suspected) that something in their materials was making their employees sick, but in usual corporate fashion - even in the 1920's and 30's - it was better to leave the women to fend for themselves and mount huge medical debts. It is a heart-breaking story. I can't imagine anyone reading it and not being moved by the plight of these women. Author Kate Moore makes it personal - introducing us to the girls and letting us get to know them individually. Moore builds this story nicely and we come to realize that what the girls ... and the world ... needs is a champion - someone to take up their cause and fight - to give them a small amount of relief and to help change the laws for the future. You'll have to read this to see how it turns out. It's a powerful read and there aren't many happy endings here, given the nature of the story, but it's something that should be read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
krissysbookshelf More than 1 year ago
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.
brf1948 More than 1 year ago
I received a free copy of The Radium Girls, a recreation of the lives of the many young women brought down by radiation poisoning in the early 1900’s from Netgalley, Kate Moore and Sourcebook in exchange for an honest review. Thank you, for sharing your hard work with me. Kate Moore brings us an intimate look through the eyes of these girls, recreating their lives from diaries, letters and court testimonies, tombstones, family stories and dusty archives. She brings to life these feisty girls who spent their days painting minuscule radium numbers on watch faces, gun sights, and airplane dashboards. This work, done quickly and well, provided a fine income for an artistic young woman. Many applied for these jobs and encouraged their sisters and friends to apply, as well – both for the experience of working with this miraculous material discovered by the Curie’s, and to do their part for the war effort. The price they paid for this experience was horrendous. This is a story that needs to be shared so their sacrifices are not in vain, and as a cautionary tale as our world spins rapidly into tomorrow.