The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women by Kate Moore
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Long, and very detailed, but it is exactly those details — like describing the polka dot dress one of the women is wearing — that brings these girls alive almost a century after they died just doing their jobs. I used to live not far from Ottawa, Il., the setting for one of the factories where young women were hired to paint glow in the dark dials on clocks and watches. They were told to use their lips to keep the brushes pointy, even though the paint they were using was radioactive radium. Months or years later they became ill with assorted pains caused by the radium they injested. It deposited in their bones causing some to lose teeth, others to limp, another to have a growth on her shoulder. It was many years before the cause became known and still many more before the courts made the companies pay medical bills or maybe a little more. I had heard the general story before but Moore really makes this story more about the women and what they went through. She examined family photos of the women so she could describe them and their clothes, visited the houses where they lived, and even takes a few liberties to suggest that their tenacity in fighting for justice probably prevented future injuries on other radioactive endeavors such as The Manhattan Project. Well done.