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  • Writer's pictureJudith D Collins

The Radium Girls

The Radium Girls

The Dark Story of America's Shining Women

ISBN: 9781492649359

Publisher: Soucebooks Landmark

Publication Date: 5/2/2017

Format: Other

My Rating: 5 Stars + Top Books of 2017 The incredible true story of the young women exposed to the “wonder” substance of radium and their brave struggle for justice... 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.

A rich, historical narrative written in a sparkling voice, The Radium Girls is the first book that fully explores the strength of extraordinary women in the face of almost impossible circumstances and the astonishing legacy they left behind.

Kate Moore is a Sunday Times best selling writer with more than a decade’s experience writing and ghosting across varying genres, including memoir, biography, and history. In 2005 she directed a critically acclaimed play about the Radium Girls called ‘These Shining Lives.’ She lives in the UK.


My Review

Impeccably researched, Kate Moore showcases this incredible piece of history, THE RADIUM GIRLS: The Dark Story of America's Shining Women – Filled with triumph and tragedy, the inside personal story showcasing real women standing up for their rights with strength, dignity, and courage.

Top Books of 2017! An incredible book. The Radium Girls would be proud. They were called the shining girls because they quite literally glowed in the dark. And they were dying.

Kate Moore, best-selling author, editor and ghostwriter from London made it her quest to give these women a voice, with inspiration starting from a play. She became passionate about these women and knew she had to write about them.

The Radium Girls were female factory workers who contracted radiation poisoning from painting watch dials with glow-in-the-dark paint at the United States Radium factory in Orange, New Jersey, around 1917.

The women, who had been told the paint was harmless, ingested deadly amounts of radium by licking their paintbrushes to give them a fine point; some also painted their fingernails and teeth with the glowing substance.

Five of the women challenged their employer in a case that established the right of individual workers who contract occupational diseases to sue their employer

“An amazing story about real women who stood up and fought for justice. Their strength, sacrifice, and courage deserve to be remembered. Part scientific mystery, part horror story and part courtroom drama, this is a piece of history that will break your heart but somehow lift your spirit.”

Moore goes beyond the scientific and legal aspects and centers on the women’s compelling story of their individual lives. They are center stage, told from their perspective. The individual women who had fought and died for justice. Historical achievements.

The author tells the story of these women, ready to express their independence from their initial excitement about the work to their realization that it was killing them to their legal battles and ultimate death.

In addition to the sickness, death, and injustice after injustice, the author shows the women’s intense strength and courage fighting until the bitter end. The slander, fighting the corporate giants, from doctors, lawyers, and the corruption. They never gave up hope. For some it was too late; however, they wanted to fight for justice for their families and others.

These were ordinary working-class women who had dreams and hopes. They were known as “The Radium Girls”. They each had their own unique experiences. Their own lives, loves, families, and losses. Their triumphs and terrors.

The author takes readers on a journey. What makes it so special and moving is the efforts put into this book, by flying 4,000 miles across an ocean to walk in the radium girls’ footsteps in America. She walked the routes to work, visited homes and graveyards.

From extensive research, diaries, letters, photos, personal accounts. She delved deeper and became their champion. Standing on the site of Radium Dial, and interviewing their relatives, research, legal and medical reports, plus more in order to find out what the heroines were really like. What the girls endured. Their sacrifices.

Moore brings their story to life!

Love the way everything is organized with contents, a list of key characters, doctors, investigators, dial-painters, The Radium Dial Company, and doctors. In addition, photos of the women, and the watches among other references.

The women were told there was nothing hazardous to their health. A frequent line we hear today about our foods. Just a little will not hurt. The amount of radium in the paint was considered so small that such measures were not deemed necessary.

Grace and Irene. Mollie and Ella. Albina and Edna. Hazel, Katherine, and Mae. They picked up their brushes and they twirled them over and over, just as they had been taught.

Lip . . . Dip . . . Paint.

Radium Poisoning. Lives cut short. Tragic suffering. Bodies disfigured. The Radium Girls were female factory workers who contracted radiation poisoning from painting watch dials.

"The Radium Girls live on shining through the darkness of history to blaze a light for good, for strength, and for courage.”

The dial painters were motivated by the idea of helping the troops. They were doing their bit to help. Some even scratched their name and address into the watch as a message for the soldier who would wear it and often would respond with a note. Soldiers needed watches, and people needed it for the planes and the trucks, so these girls were employed to paint the dials.

The health problems came later. From an aching limb, or a bad tooth ... but as the sickness developed and set in with the women, it got a lot more gruesome. From jawbones, bleeding, tumors, decaying bones, infections, anemia, and cancer. – the radium was killing them. There were expensive medical bills, care, and an employer not accepting responsibility.

They had no clue at the time, they would make history. They would change workers' rights. Five girls fighting for justice: Grace, Katherine, Quinta, Albina, and Edna.

The Radium Girls is a bittersweet, cautionary tale. A reminder that our society is as fragile today as they were hundreds of years ago. A race-against-time fight for justice that would forever change US labor laws.

In light of the food industry today, plus many more areas of our life including our environment. With chemicals, toxins, additives and preservatives. When the food industry says it is fine. When those who rely on the assurance of others and do not question their reliability and credibility. The corruption can be deadly.

As in the tobacco industry, baby powder cancer lawsuits, financial, and numerous others, it may be years before the actual horrors are known, and unfortunately, deaths and sickness before greedy giants are taken down and justice is served.

A deeply moving story of women whose lives were cruelly cut short by people who placed greed and profit above human life. These women became a glowing beacon of hope for justice, equality, and accountability.

What makes this story so unique versus others: It is told through the eyes of the radium-dial workers, their families, and friends – their personal journey. By doing so, it gives the reader a better understanding of the girls’ lives, explored from a more personal level. The radium girls’ case was one of the first in which an employer was made responsible for the health of the company’s employees. Today, we benefit from their courage and tenacity.

“Part scientific mystery, part horror story and part courtroom drama, this is a piece of history that will break your heart but somehow lift your spirit,” Moore said in her New York Times interview. Tell Us 5 Things About Your Book: Kate Moore’s ‘The Radium Girls’ New York Times Interview

“Not much unlike the modern American war against science being waged by our government and big business, the radium companies of the 20th century ignored the facts and hid the truth, resulting in deadly consequences. . . But also not unlike modern America, there were some people willing to stand up for what was right: the Radium Girls.” – Bustle

Emotional, rich in history and character, a must-read book! Strong women which are not forgotten. In addition to the advanced reading copy, also purchased the audiobook performed by Angela Brazil. Highly recommend.

A special thank you to Sourcebooks Landmark and NetGalley for an early reading copy.

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Read the powerful true story of The Radium Girls, the American women from the Roaring Twenties who were poisoned by their work and courageously fought for justice.

This first-ever narrative non-fiction account of their lives, drawing on the women's diaries, letters and court testimonies, is published in the UK by Simon & Schuster on 16 June 2016.


Advance Praise

"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

"...[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

"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

"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

"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


Kate Moore

About the Author

I am the author of more than ten books across the genres of gift, humour, biography, history and children’s brand publishing. A Sunday Times top-three bestselling author, I am extremely versatile, equally adept at creating projects to clients’ briefs, ghostwriting memoirs and innovating my own ideas. My work has been published in national newspapers, translated into more than twelve languages, used in national advertising campaigns and performed at the South Bank Centre, London. Read More






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