Reading this book was like watching a car accident as it is about to happen and knowing you can do nothing to stop it. We first see these bright, young girls jumping at the chance to paint dials and make a very good wage. All have dreams and families that can benefit from these extra $$. Then we realize what they are doing -- licking paintbrushes dipped in radium over and over and over. . .
Kudos to Kate Moore for her storytelling and extensive research. She truly did bring these shining women to life and we suffered with them through their individual journeys. Their stories and the court cases that resulted from their suffering and illnesses changed the American employment landscape in significant ways. They live on in the research that they contributed to regarding radium first and then later the atomic bomb and the ramifications of testing. Shine on, ladies!
This is an important book as it details the horrifying, true events that occurred to dozens of young women as a direct result of working in factories painting glow-in-the-dark dials with radium paint. The scandalous treatment of these women and cover-up by the industry makes it very painful to read, and it is still relevant today as their struggles and illnesses formed the basis of worker's rights and OSHA years later.
However, an easy read this is not; Moore covers as many womens' stories as possible in her narrative with the result that it is both repetative and difficult to keep up with the individual stories. The Radium Girls is an excellent book club choice that will provoke a lot of discussion.
A must read! A fast-paced, wonderful narrative nonfiction book about the women, who painted glow-in-the-dark watch faces during World War I and beyond.
Kate Moore spoke at BookExpo. I was in tears hearing about her research and more about these women. A wonderful interview with Ms. Moore on NPR.
The information in this book was new to me and very pertinent to today when the President is taking away safety regulations for workers by executive order. What these women went through was a tragedy and might I add, would probably not have happened over and over again if they had been men and thereby "breadwinners of the family"- even though in many cases they were supporting their families.
I wish it had been written in a more coherent style, I found it tough to keep all the "girls", excuse the employer, should be "women" straight even though I wanted to remember each of their stories.
Interesting history. However, the author's writing is extremely redundant, and makes keeping track of each character very difficult. Interrsting for the first couple of chapters, but becomes very labored after that. I'd recommend reading an excerpt rather than the whole book. Additionally, the history of the radium girls is very closely tied to de-unionization that characterized the 20th century United States, as well as general workers rights issues and issues with regulation of business, which the author does not effectively highlight.
Very interesting read, however, it seemed like the girls' narrative kept repeating. There were several companies using radium so each girl had her own story that pretty much sounded the same for each girl. After the lawyers and doctors got involved with the girls' cases, that was a repeating theme as well; lies, denials, endless physical exams etc. I enjoyed learning about the girls and the struggles they went through but the book could possibly have been shortened a bit without losing any substance.
Kate Moore doesn't just tell us about the lives and deaths of the radium girls, but offers us a unique glimpse into their world using their own words. By using primary sources like the girls' diaries and even interviewing living family members who remember these girls, Moore allows the reader to be swept up in the highs and lows the girls lived. As the reader, we are offered more information than the girls receive, but Moore does a great job holding information from the reader for suspense which amplifies moments of betrayal and heartbreak for the reader. Some of the most emotional moments were not ones about the girls directly, but how their conditions and ultimately their deaths impacted those who loved them. Not only did the girls suffer, but their families struggled to help them in any way possible, often resulting in cases of extreme poverty and desperation. Radium didn't just affect the women who worked with it, but their families and their communities as well.
This truly dark story of 1920s businesses who employed young women as dial painters using glowing radium paint without knowledge of its long-term consequences and who then covered up or denied fault as the women developed ghastly illnesses and died.
Moore’s book is thorough in its research, but tough going as the grim consequences of the work are detailed in case after case. Good epilogue. Recommended for serious history readers. Nothing like reading 'The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II,' women who benefitted from the health and safety precautions that resulted from the Radium Girls court cases.
Fascinating and thorough look into the lives of the "radium girls" of the 1920s--the young women who painted watch dials with radium-filled paint and ingested the radium for years without intervention or warning. It was often difficult to read about the injustice and pain these women suffered, but their story and legacy is important, encouraging, and absolutely worth reading.
Can a book have too many details?
I confess I only read the first 3 chapters of Radium Girls before I started to feel depressed and put the book aside. This is a very well written and researched book. But the topic and vivid details make for a tough read. The book includes a few pictures which makes the story all the more real when you can put a face to a name and see some of the affects of radium poisoning. What these girls when through was horrific and I am glad that their names and stories will not be forgotten.
Tjad2L thinks this title is suitable for 15 years and over
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