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The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America's Shining Women Hardcover – April 18, 2017
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"Radium Girls spares us nothing of their suffering; though at times the foreshadowing reads more like a true-crime story, Moore is intent on making the reader viscerally understand the pain in which these young women were living, and through which they had to fight in order to get their problems recognized...The story of real women at the mercy of businesses who see them only as a potential risk to the bottom line is haunting precisely because of how little has changed; the glowing ghosts of the radium girls haunt us still." - NPR Books
"A perfect blend of the historical, the scientific, and the personal, this richly detailed book sheds a whole new light on this unique element and the role it played in changing workers' rights. The Radium Girls makes it impossible for you to ignore these women's incredible stories, and proves why, now more than ever, we can't afford to ignore science, either." - Bustle
"This timely book celebrates the strength of a group of women, whose determination to fight improved both labor laws and scientific knowledge of radium poisoning. Written in a highly readable, narrative style, Moore's chronicle of these inspirational women's lives is sure to provoke discussion-and outrage-in book groups." - Booklist-STARRED review
"Moore's well-researched narrative is written with clarity and a sympathetic voice that brings these figures and their struggles to life...a must-read for anyone interested in American and women's history, as well as topics of law, health, and industrial safety." - STARRED Library Journal
"Carefully researched, the work will stun readers with its descriptions of the glittering artisans who, oblivious to health dangers, twirled camel-hair brushes to fine points using their mouths, a technique called lip-pointing...Moore details what was a 'ground-breaking, law-changing, and life-saving accomplishment' for worker's rights." - Publishers Weekly
"Like Da a Sobel's The Glass Universe and Margot Lee Shetterly's Hidden Figures, Kate Moore's The Radium Girls tells the story of a cohort of women who made history by entering the workforce at the dawn of a new scientific era. But the young women--many of them just teenagers--who learned the skill of painting glow-in-the-dark numbers on clock faces and aeronautical gauges early in the twentieth century paid a stiff price for their part in this breakthrough involving the deadly element, radium. Moore sheds new light on a dark chapter in American labor history; the "Radium Girls," martyrs to an unholy alliance of commerce and science, live again in her telling" - Megan Marshall, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Margaret Fuller: A New American Life and Elizabeth Bishop: A Miracle for Breakfast
"Kate Moore vividly depicts the female factory workers whose courage led to a revolution in industrial safety standards. In describing their heart wrenching struggles and bittersweet triumphs, Moore delivers an intimate portrait of these pioneers. Uplifting and beautifully written, The Radium Girls is a tribute to the strength of women everywhere." - Nathalia Holt, New York Times bestselling author of Rise of the Rocket Girls: The Women Who Propelled Us From Missiles to the Moon to Mars
"Kate Moore's gripping narrative about the betrayal of the radium girls-gracefully told and exhaustively researched-makes this a nonfiction classic. I particularly admire Moore's compassion for her subjects and her story-telling prowess, which brings alive a shameful era in America's industrial history." - Rinker Buck, author of The Oregon Trail: A New American Journey and Flight of Passage
"...[A] fascinating social history one that significantly reflects on the class and gender of those involved [is] Catherine Cookson meets Mad Men...The importance of the brave and blighted dial-painters cannot be overstated." - Sunday Times
"Kate Moore . . . writes with a sense of drama that carries one through the serpentine twists and turns of this tragic but ultimately uplifting story. She sees the trees for the wood: always at the center of her narrative are the individual dial painters, so the list of their names at the start of the book becomes a register of familiar, endearing ghosts." - Spectator
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 http://www.kate-moore.com/.
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Radium was widely heralded as a wondrous new substance after it was first isolated by the Curies. It appeared to have an infinite number of uses, one of the first of which was to make the numbers on clocks and watches easier to see. Workers were needed to coat the dials with radium paint, and the best and most efficient workers were women and girls, some as young as 14 or 15. The work was pleasant and sociable: the women sat around tables painting, moistening the thin brushes in their mouths before they dipped them into the paint, chatting, eating, and drinking while they worked, sometimes taking extra paint home with them to practice with, sometimes painting their teeth, faces, hair, and clothing to make them sparkly. When they left the studio their clothing would be covered with radium dust, and would glow ghost-like in the night. The pay was good and the work was easy, but then some of the women started having strange pains in their mouths and bones. Their teeth would loosen and fall out and their jaws, legs, and ankles would develop permanent aches or even crumble.
After some of the women died and more became ill the companies making large profits on radium rushed to dismiss any hint that the work was unsafe. Victims and their families sought relief and assistance, but found they were responsible for their own mounting medical bills. The federal, state, and local governments all disavowed any responsibility. Eventually publicity stemming from lawsuits filed by some of the victims (using their own scanty resources) focused enough attention on the problem that governments felt compelled to set safety standards and regulations.
The Radium Girls is a horrifying read. The careless ways in which radium was handled, the indifference of the radium using industries and the governments involved to the safety of the women painters (in contrast to the men who worked to produce the radium, who were protected by lead shields), and the pain and suffering of the women themselves are appalling. The safety regulations and restrictions which were finally put into place hardly seem adequate, and the Epilogue and Postscript giving details of the women's later lives, as well as an account of another industry that made careless use of radium as late as the 1970s, are especially harrowing.
This is a well written, meticulously research and documented, account of tragedies that never should have been. The radium girls' lives can't be returned to them, but thanks to Kate Moore we can remember, and learn, from their pain.
However, we miss the point. It WAS repetitive. It happened over and over again. The author's purpose was to portray these ladies as individuals, with their own families, hopes, and eventually, dashed dreams. It's not enough to simply say "corporate greed killed off a group of women in the early 20th century, leading to reform of industrial health laws". Each of these women deserved her own piece of the story to be described. They had sisters, mothers, fathers, etc. and we should remember their tragic story.
Most recent customer reviews
grabs you immediately. It's a little long only because of the detail that is necessary to tell the story.Read more