The Radium Girls by Kate Moore
Release Date; 18th April 2017
As World War I raged across the globe, hundreds of young women toiled away at the radium-dial factories, where they painted clock faces with a mysterious new substance called radium. Assured by their bosses that the luminous material was safe, the women themselves shone brightly in the dark, covered from head to toe with the glowing dust. With such a coveted job, these “shining girls” were considered the luckiest alive—until they began to fall mysteriously ill. As the fatal poison of the radium took hold, they found themselves embroiled in one of America’s biggest scandals and a groundbreaking battle for workers’ rights.
I know a lot of people have wept while reading this book… me? I felt empowered. Not just that but I felt like I was contributing by just becoming aware, by know what these unbelievably brave women went through.
Radium, newly discovered by Marie and Pierre Curie, became ‘the next big thing’ being found in tonics, elixirs, toothpaste, tablets and many other health and beauty products due to its powerful “rejuvenating qualities”. But also it was utilized for its luminous properties, starting with clock dials and them moving on to dials for planes. The Radium Girls, known as artists back then were employed by the hundreds. Using tiny little brushes to paint the minute numbers and hands onto hundreds and thousands of dials a day. The women were all too keen to be part of the glamorous lifestyle as a dial artist, especially if it meant they were fighting the good fight, and helping the men win the war. Women would line up around the block in the hopes of landing this most prestigious of jobs. Each and every one desperate to start lipping and dipping (the process of shaping the radium coated brush tips with their mouths). Which was obviously safe because the company officials and doctors told them so.
The book documents the tenacious and admiral ladies battle through to get justice and recognition, fighting various doctors, employers, courts and officials, all while living in poverty, too ill to work and slowly succumbing to the horrific and disturbing effects of the radiation. The women were determined to get justice with their last dying breaths against the corporate giants inflicting these life sentences on the women.
The story was told in a way that I had never experienced before. The writing and a matter of fact, almost stern tone. That actually mad it easier to read. There was no scene setting of pretty picture building but just fact after fact. The book only telling you the cold truth. Although told through interviews, newspaper reports and diary entries, it was not set out like so. The only way I describe it is ‘a story of facts’.
At no point during the book do you forget that these are real people. It is something that you are continuously and constantly aware of. I felt although I had gained something by reading this book, I feel like I am more aware, I feel although the story and hearing the decade long plight has life me a changed person.
The Radium Girls was definitely one of the most powerful books that I have ever read and will stay with me for a long long time.Moore was harsh and factual in her writing yet always sympathetic. What a masterpiece.
NOTE: Before you begin this book Google The Radium Girls and radium poisoning. Put faces to the names of the heroic women you are about to read about; Helen, Grace, Marguerite, Catherine, Marie, Pearl….
You can check out the author… HERE
Thank you NetGalley Sourcebooks & Kate Moore
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