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The Radium Girls:The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women (Harrowing Historical Nonfiction Bestseller About a Courageous Fight for Justice) Hardcover – April 1, 2017
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"Radium Girls is a shocking, heartbreaking story of corporate greed and denial, and the strength of the human spirit in face of it. To read it is to honor these women who unwittingly sacrificed their lives but whose courage to stand up and be heard speaks to us from the grave. It is a tale for our times." - Peter Stark, author of Astoria: John Jacob Astor and Thomas Jefferson's Lost Pacific Empire: A Story of Wealth, Ambition, and Survival
"In this thrilling and carefully crafted book, Kate Moore tells the shocking story of how early 20th-century corporate and legal America set about silencing dozens of working-class women who had been systematically poisoned by radiation ... Moore [writes] so lyrically ... FIVE STARS" - Mail on Sunday
"A heartfelt ... history." - Sunday Telegraph
"Moore's harrowing but humane story describes the struggle of a few brave women who took their case to court in a fight for justice that is still resonant today" - Saga
"Compelling chronicle of women whose work maimed and killed them while their employers, their doctors and their government turned a blind eye to their suffering" - The Seattle Times
"...[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
"Radium Girls was a wonderful and sad read about amazingly brave women. Kate Moore tells their incredible true story of tragedy and bravery in the face of corporate greed. We all should know the stories of these women who suffered through radium poisoning and refused to be silenced. This isn't just an important part of history, but a page turner that will leave you heartbroken and emboldened. It is a must read." - Rachel Ignotofsky, author of Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World
"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
"We sometimes need reminding of where health and safety came from, and why it is so very important for progress. The Radium Girls compels us to remember." - Chemistry World
"Written with the taut pacing of a novel, Kate Moore's The Radium Girls tells the horrifying true story of the young women who worked in radium dial factories in the 1920s and '30s...Their incredible story, beautifully told by Kate Moore, is sure to incite equal parts compassion and horror in the reader.
" - BookPage
"Kate Moore has dug deep to expose a wrong that still resonates–as it should–in this country. Exceptional!" - San Francisco Book Review
"A toxic tale of American greed at the expenses of youthful innocence and hope, an exposé of collusion by the professional class (lawyers, doctors, and executives) to defraud and defame and debase a generation of women whose only crime was
their desire to work for a decent wage....You will be angry; you will want to fight. But it is also a celebration of those lives lost that made a difference, lives that changed labor laws and opened doors to new and better safety regulations in the work
place." - Illinois Heritage
"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
"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
"Like Dava 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'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
About the Author
- ASIN : 149264935X
- Publisher : SOURCEBOOKS; 1st edition (April 1, 2017)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 496 pages
- ISBN-10 : 9781492649359
- ISBN-13 : 978-1492649359
- Lexile measure : 980L
- Item Weight : 1.55 pounds
- Best Sellers Rank: #338,091 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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Top reviews from the United States
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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.
This book is excellent and gives amazing historical background pertaining to the inauguration of workers compensation, liability, and medical advancements. It is definitely a very emotional charged book. I would highly recommend this book.
Kate Moore has done an amazing job of recreating their stories, with the assistance of family members, letters, diaries, medical reports, and case notes from the son of the attorney who handled their cases. Moores extensive research results in an amazing story, appalling as the facts may be. It truly is a great read!
Top reviews from other countries
Moore's story revolves around dial-painters, girls (some just teenagers) and women employed to paint the numbers on clocks, watches and other instruments using radium-infused luminous paint. Trained to shape the brushes by putting them in their mouths, they ingest quantities of radium, assured by the company that it'll put roses in their cheeks...
It's frightening to see how these young women think it's glamorous to go home with their hands, faces and clothes glowing in the dark - and their innocence at eating lunch at the same tables at which they work with the radium paint. Only later, they start to get ill...
Moore does a fine job of keeping the balance between her big story of corporate lies and cover-ups, and the intimate, personal histories of the 'radium girls' themselves. The accounts of their sufferings are hard-hitting, and we're incensed at the way they are dismissed by fat-cat company directors concerned with protecting their profits, an uncaring burgeoning radium industry, a largely ignorant medical profession and the red-tape of legal bureaucracy that is ill-fitted to deal with their cases.
There are places where Moore's own emotions get the better of her and she inserts emotive asides or trembles barely on the right side of sentimentality - but these are fewer than some of the negative reviews make out and, honestly, this is such a gut-wrenching tale that I could understand and forgive.
Most of all, this is utterly compelling reading - one of those books that I couldn't wait to get back to: a must-read.
But, before long, the dial-painters start to experience ailments that just won't go away - bone decay, skin lesions, ulcerations that worsen with any attempt to treat them, confounding the doctors they consult until the common thread of radium is identified. So begins the women's struggle to have radium poisoning recognised as a condition, fighting against the might of the lucrative and powerful radium industry to receive compensation - and the radium industry will go to shocking lengths to cover up the dangers.
Kate Moore's book is a detailed account of the Radium Girls' experience, told partly in a novelistic style, which I felt worked well - the women's characters are brought to life through small imagined details of daily life, against a backdrop of factual information drawn from contemporary material. Moore successfully explains the importance of the women's experience in the wider context of medical science, and attitudes towards nuclear research in the later 20th century, and I think does justice to their tenacity in fighting a legal battle despite many setbacks and unimaginable physical suffering, to create a legacy from which society has continued to benefit.
It is a harrowing read; the illustrations showing the women are particularly sad - one can see all too clearly their frailty, but the story told is important and deserves a wide audience - it would make an excellent subject for a film. I was gripped from start to finish.
The story is told in a way that just sucks you in and makes you feel a part of what unfolds in it's often brutal manner. The behaviour of certain companies will fuel the anger in you, but the reaction of certain doctors will make your blood boil with rage and disbelief. How ANY of this could happen in a modern (by 1920-30's standards) country like the USA, just filled me with horror, particularly as the evidence of harmful practices was so utterly overwhelming yet not only was nothing done to address it, but facts were actively covered up.
I found myself sobbing hard during one chapter and had to put the book down and walk away in an effort to compose myself. It was that hard-hitting.
The girls - and their families - went through unimaginable torture in their often short and painful lives, yet 'big business' cared not a jot. Vile behavior from some vile people.
This is the book of the century, in my opinion, if only because it let this horrific event be told to everyone - and for only 99 pence? There is no excuse NOT to buy it.
I found it especially interesting to read more about what happened with her most famous discovery, radium. The main characters in the book, the girls themselves, were portrayed brilliantly and sympathetically. You’d have to be stone-hearted to not be moved and inspired by them.
The only reason I didn’t give 5 stars was I found the physical description of every girl felt a bit jarring as I read. I understand why it was done, but I still didn’t feel it necessary and found it pulled me out of an otherwise gripping narrative. I did get more or less used to it but it bothered me.
I would definitely recommend this book to anyone with the slightest interest. It’s a thoroughly fascinating tale. Maybe it would open some eyes to the way firms act to protect their commercial interests - whilst they may be a little less brazen about it these days it’s still very much in practice.