Monday, July 17, 2017

Radium Girls - A Book Review

Radium Girls is a difficult book to read at times, but completely worthwhile. The author, Kate Moore, researched extensively in writing this book and it shows. I defy you to put it down once you begin reading.  

One can barely comprehend the hubris and callousness of an industry which knew its workers were being harmed terribly by industrial materials, but did nothing to protect them.

Radium girls worked in factories painting watch faces with radium to make them glow in the dark. The young woman were trained to make a point in the paint brush with their tongues. Around and around they went on each watch face, over and over again, all day long. Each time the paintbrush was dipped, the girls ingested deadly radium.
Early on, companies like the U.S. Radium Corporation did not know that the radium paint was harming these young women. 

Radium was first touted as a healthful substance. As unbelievable as it seems today, one could purchase radium toothpaste, radium drinks, radium face cream and other radium-laced products.  Yikes!
The danger soon became clear, but the companies continued to hire young women and continued to use the radium paint which they knew to be exceptionally dangerous. Companies denied the truth they knew and refused to pay damages.

Not surprisingly, the problems seen first occurred in the women's mouths.  One of the first Radium Girls described in Kate Moore's fascinating and very well written book consulted a dentist. The radium damage was so severe that when the dentist pulled her tooth, her jaw bone came out with it.

Every woman should read this book which provides an astonishing look at the treatment of females in the work place in the past.  Along with abuses of mine, garment, and textile workers, this is a part of our past would should not be forgotten.  Do these girls (actually women) receive justice? You'll have to read to find out!

To learn more:
Interview with the last Radium Girl

Interview with Kate Moore Author of Radium Girls

/Thanks to National Public Radio (NPR) for the historic picture of Radium Girls featured above.

Thanks to MentalFlosscom for the old radium toothpaste ad.

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