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The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America's Shining Women

The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America's Shining Women

Написано Kate Moore

Озвучено Angela Brazil


The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America's Shining Women

Написано Kate Moore

Озвучено Angela Brazil

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4.5/5 (179 оценки)
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15 hours
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Издано:
May 2, 2017
ISBN:
9781681684222
Формат:
Аудиокнига

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1917. As a war raged across the world, young American women flocked to work, painting watches, clocks and military dials with a special luminous substance made from radium. It was a fun job, lucrative and glamorous—the girls themselves shone brightly in the dark, covered head to toe in the dust from the paint. They were the radium girls.

As the years passed, the women began to suffer from mysterious and crippling illnesses. The very thing that had made them feel alive—their work—was in fact slowly killing them: they had been poisoned by the radium paint. Yet their employers denied all responsibility. And so, in the face of unimaginable suffering—in the face of death—these courageous women refused to accept their fate quietly, and instead became determined to fight for justice.

Drawing on previously unpublished sources—including diaries, letters, and court transcripts, as well as original interviews with the women's relatives—The Radium Girls is an intimate narrative account of an unforgettable true story. It is the powerful tale of a group of ordinary women from the Roaring Twenties, who themselves learned how to roar.
Издатель:
Издано:
May 2, 2017
ISBN:
9781681684222
Формат:
Аудиокнига

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Об авторе

A multiple Sunday Times bestselling author, Kate Moore has written more than fifteen books across various genres, including history, biography, and gift. Her last book was the award-winning international bestseller The Radium Girls, which was selected for Emma Watson’s Our Shared Shelf book club. She is based in London.


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Что люди думают о The Radium Girls

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  • (4/5)
    This true story of the young women whose lives were destroyed by their work with radium in the early 20th century is both harrowing and riveting.

    Repeatedly assured by their employers that the substance they used to paint glow-in-the-dark dials for military and civilian use, the young women were instructed to use a technique that involved placing the brushes in their mouths to create a precise point. When they began exhibiting horrific symptoms, the companies hid research results, denied liability, and generally behaved in appallingly heartless ways.

    The book outlines the lives of several of the "Radium Girls" and traces the development of their disabilities, and follows their decades-long battle to receive compensation for their injuries, essentially inventing the worker protection laws in effect today.

    The only quibble I have about the book has to do with the huge cast of characters and the sometimes confusing timeline. It's difficult to see, however, how the material could have been organized to alleviate this confusion without also eliminating important facts or players.
  • (5/5)
    This book with stay with you long after you have finished reading it. The horrors that happened to these girls show how important workplace safety is. Meticulously researched, with in-depth detail the struggle for the girls exposed to radium is a testimony to the importance these woman played in gaining compensation for workplace illnesses.
  • (3/5)
    What happened to these women is horrible. The companies quest for the bottom line was reprehensible. The book itself is most interesting when focusing on a single woman. It starts to get a little clinical when trying to list all the women who were hurt. It feels like a lot of repetition. Same conversations over and over with the radium companies. It is good to get this story out, but it is not written in the most compelling fashion.
  • (4/5)
    In the 1920s, teens and young women started getting well-paying jobs painting luminous dials on watches. The paint contained radium, and the women were taught to point the brushes with their lips, ingesting tiny amounts radium every time they did so. Years later, when the painters started having back pain and tooth problems, doctors and dentists were flummoxed - why were these young women suddenly so fragile?The story of the Radium Girls begins with the dial painters in the 20s and runs through their legal battles in the late 30s, covering two different companies and many different players - bosses, dial painters, lawyers, doctors - that makes it hard to keep track. The first part of the story, the medical mystery of what was wrong and how they were eventually tested for radioactivity, was for me the most fascinating (and horrifying!) part. People were so convinced that radium in small amounts was beneficial that it was even advertised in bottled water, chocolate, and other products for the general public. Moore's narrative begins dropping off during the legal proceedings. Partly, I believe she was confused about how the American legal system worked: she seemed incredulous about multiple "Objections!" and called what I believe was a hearing a "first trial" to be followed by a second one. Secondly, she just became so involved in her own story and championing the "Radium Girls" that it took away from some pretty bitter facts that spoke for themselves. And it just became a lot of people, and a lot of years to follow. Still, it's an incredible and worthwhile story, a cautionary tale of using a "safe" but untested element and realizing only later the great danger it posed.
  • (3/5)
    Upsetting.
  • (5/5)
    This was a very well written book on a very tough topic. A sign of good non-fiction is when I find myself googling to get additional information. I spent lots of time on google as I read.The radium girls were victims of many. They were victims of a lack of knowledge about the dangers of radium. They were victims of the laws at that time which allowed them to work in dangerous conditions as well as be unable to seek justice. They were victims of greedy corporations. They were victims of unscrupulous businessmen, doctors, and lawyers. Their strength in continuing to fight for justice and knowledge are highly commendable.The radium girls began work 100 years ago. I am thankful for the progress we have made in the last century.
  • (5/5)
    This non-fiction book tells the story of a group of women who were hired to paint the numbers on clock and watch faces using radium paint. In the early 1900s Radium was discovered by the Curries. Suddenly, it was all the rage. It was used in medical cures as well as lumimous dials for watches and equipment. No one understood what would happen to the human body or the earth when it came into contact with radium. These jobs were high paying and were coveted by many women. Not only did the numbers glow, but the women's hair, clothing and bodies when they left work each evening. They painted their nails and dabbed it on their bodies before going out on a date. When they turned off the lights, they laughed as they glowed bright green. These girls sat for hours happily painting and pointing their paint brushes by swishing them in their mouths to cover the small numbers. What they didn't realize is the painful effects Radium exposure would have on their health.

    When many of these dial painting employees began having serious medical issues....chronic mouth infections, loose teeth, disintegrating jaw bones, tumors, and even death....their employers turned a blind eye. They said the Radium was harmless, the girls died of other illnesses when they were really hiding what they knew, that the girls had contracted radiation poisoning. They commissioned studies to prove that radium was the cause. They also said that the time to make claims was past, or that the girls had not worked for them for several years, so it was something else that caused their illness. It took years of fighting and public outcry for life-saving regulations to be put in place to protect workers from this scale of work related injury and blatant disregard for employee health and safety. The women, injured by exposure to Radium, had to fight to have their story heard, and it led to work place safety regulations to prevent similar exposure to future workers. They were courageous and fought for what they knew was right. Many of them fighting for the women that came after them as they knew that their illness was terminal.

    I listened to this book and it was very well done. The narrator did not change voices etc. but it was not necessary. She sounded believable as the voices of the various women. This book is horrifying and haunting, yet compelling. I'm glad the stories of these women and what they endured isn't being lost to time. This book was the result of a young girl reading a story about this terrible injustice. It may have started over 100 years ago, but their stories and their fight for justice is just as poignant now as it was then. I am not a great reader of non-fiction, but I highly recommend this book to anyone. The audio version was 16 hours long, but it was well worth the time.
  • (4/5)
    There are a lot of things we take for granted today, never questioning how we got to where we are now, especially if we know history shows us a picture of the way things were that is completely different. Some of the advancements are clear and taught in schools, like the fight for civil rights or the fight for women's rights. But what about changes in the workplace? How did we end up with OSHA? Do we focus on what inspired those laws and guidelines? If we're lucky, we're taught about the outlawing of child labor and catastrophic disasters like the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire in NY in 1911. But what about longer lasting, more systemic tragedies like that documented in Kate Moore's The Radium Girls? Stories like that have long been buried despite the major role they played in changing laws and protecting the safety of vulnerable workers.This narrative history tells the story of the girls as young as eleven and young women who in the early years of the twentieth century, worked at the glamorous and reasonably well-paying job of dial painting. The women were hired on to work on the luminous dials that the government wanted for war time troops and that civilians wanted on their watch faces. Glow in the dark was all the rage and in high demand. The job was a sought after one, with the women themselves glowing in the dark from the radium that shimmered all around them. They were very precise painters, instructed to "lip, dip, paint," to moisten the fine hairs of the paintbrush in their mouths before dipping them into the radium infused paint and then carefully painting the dial. Although the radium was all around them, no one was worried what inhaling or ingesting it, as when they lipped their paintbrushes, might mean for the young women down the road, at least not until they started getting sick with inexplicable illnesses, cancers, and bone and tissue deterioration. Even then the companies involved refused to admit that there was anything wrong, willfully ignoring mounting evidence of radium poisoning, treating the women as disposable, and shirking their responsibility to the slowly and painfully dying women. Only a lawsuit would begin to make any of it right and change workplace health and safety responsibilities for future generations.Moore focuses on the human cost and corporate greed that underpins this dark story. She tells the personal stories of many of the women who were afflicted, those who died, and those who fought the companies even under terminal diagnoses. The girls were from working class families, many of whom depended on the paychecks these young women brought home. They were happy, social, and so very young. Initially the girls were delighted by the "shine" of the job, enjoying the cache of their positions and the very real glow in the dark effect of being around radium all day. But then strange symptoms started to plague the dial painters and Moore describes their illnesses in horrific detail. She also detailed the emotional cost to the families and to the young women, even years after they had ceased working in the factory. Certainly no reader can remain unmoved by what these women suffered and yet because Moore chooses to tell the tales of so many, it does lessen the impact a bit. There are simply too many girls for the reader to keep straight. While this shows the breadth of the problem, it also makes for too much repetition in the book. Also, there are points where the book veered from good narrative writing to invented inner thoughts, the sort of (unacknowledged) speculation better served by a fictionalization than a straight history. After the early repetition ceases for the most part, the narrative gets bogged down and slows to a crawl with the lawsuit and court appearances feeling like a dry recitation of facts. After the personal engagement of the first two thirds of the book, this is a huge tonal disconnect. The story is an important one of workers' rights and it puts a face on these forgotten women, ravaged by radium poisoning, maligned and abandoned by the companies who hired them, but there were problems with the writing and it wasn't nearly as engaging as I would have hoped although I remain glad that we read it for book club as we did have a good and in depth discussion about the subject.
  • (4/5)
    The horrific story of the young women who painted radium dials for glow-in-the-dark watches that were popular for military and civilian use in the early 20th century. Their bones literally rotted inside their bodies; there are terrible descriptions of infections and jawbones being simply lifted from inside their sore-filled mouths. Their early misdiagnoses were a combination of accident, lack of knowledge, and institutionalized sexism that led doctors and others to take their pain less seriously. Even as the knowledge of radium’s deadly consequences became better known to the companies employing them, the women themselves were kept ignorant, and then told that they should have known better. Eventually, some of the women won small compensatory awards, but it’s hard to see this as a story of triumph despite the stamina that many of them displayed.
  • (4/5)
    A very interesting book on an almost unknown subject. The whole story was mostly very depressing, but showed the resilience of these extraordinary women.
  • (4/5)
    Book received from NetGalley.The first I had ever heard about the Radium Girls was on one of the cable tv "hidden history" shows. I was horrified by what had happened to them and wanted to know more. Unfortunately, at the time there wasn't any real information out there for the general public. I was thrilled to see this book was coming out. The ages of the girls and many were girls at 11 and 12, involved with this horrific part of industrial history shocked me. These workers were putting a radioactive material in their mouths multiple times a day because they were taught that as part of the painting process. It's definitely time that these women are recognized for the debilitating pain they went through in the name of progress, and the part they played in making workplaces safer for everyone.
  • (5/5)
    In 1987 Cinemax aired a documentary called Radium City based on the Radium Dial plant in Ottawa, Illinois that interviewed family members of victims and even a victim. I vividly remember this documentary so that when this book was published recently I was anxious to read it and learn more.The Radium Luminous Materials Corporations would begin sometime after 1913 with the advent of the radium paint by Sabin von Sochocky for use on dials for watches and later when the World War I started up to paint instrument dials. The plant existed first in Newark than in Orange, New Jersey. The women were told it was harmless. They were told to lip the paintbrush in their mouth to get it wet, then dip it in the paint, then brush it on the dial, then repeat. This would mean that they would be ingesting radium.Now at that time, the company was selling radium tonics and radium was a known treatment for cancer so it was seen as a wonder drug. But at the same time, those that worked with it in the company were missing pieces of their fingers and had burns. The women began to have problems with their teeth and jaws and their arms and legs. But they weren't necessarily all working at the plant anymore or going to the same dentist so the pieces falling together that something was wrong would take a while. On September 12, 1922, Mollie Maggia would die due to radium poisoning, but no one would know it. She was only twenty-four-years-old.Some of the women would begin to see the same dentists who believed that they had "phossy jaw", or phosphorous in their jaw which was causing the decay of their mouth. The Radium Luminous Materials Corporations knew this to be false, but they also knew what was causing the women's troubles. The women got together and decided to sue for damages once they had radium poisoning made an occupational hazard.While they were making progress on their cases, the women in Ottawa, Illinois who were working for a different company were being told that radium was healthy and that the paint the women in New Jersey used was Mesothorium, a different type of paint. It was still a type of radium isotope, but radium nonetheless. For a short while, they used glass stylus to paint the dials on Westclox clocks and watches but the brushes were quicker. The women weren't able to sue like they were able to in New Jersey, but they were able to go before the Illinois Insurance Commision to get money that way. The problem was that with the radiation of the women from their checkups had cost the Radium Dial Company it's insurance, but was forced to leave $10,000 in an exchange with the IIC. The company itself had left and gone to New York being run by its manager, while its owner had opened a new and separate company down the road where they told the women it was safe.These women would paint the radium paint on their faces and their teeth for when they would go out on a date. People could see them at night while they walked about town even without the paint because they glowed in the dark and they called them "ghost girls". They lost their jaws, they lost arms, legs to a disease they didn't understand and were lied to about. It affected their ability to reproduce and affected their children. But their sacrifice wasn't in vain. Due to them, we have OSHA and the international Limited Test Ban Treaty on 1963. These women's bodies were examined by scientists throughout their life and after their death in order to better understand radium contamination. This book is an incredible book that really examines the lives of these unsung women who should have been warned of the dangers of their working conditions and who fought to have compensation for medical costs paid out to them if they are lucky. This was an American Tragedy. I really loved this book and the lives it introduced me to. I give it five out of five stars.
  • (5/5)
    When Marie and Pierre Curie discovered the element radium in 1898, its destructive effects on living tissue were not fully understood. A rash of commercial products incorporated radium as a health benefit, including toothpaste, hair cream, and food products. And it was quickly put to use to provide long-lasting luminescence in clocks, watches, and instrument displays and dials for aircraft and other military equipment. Such use soared beginning with the onset of World War I and continued for decades.The luminescent paint containing radium was applied by hand by women, many of them teenagers when they began working at the factory, using small paintbrushes. In order to apply the paint to small areas with precision, they were instructed to lick the brush heads to draw them to a fine point. This caused them to ingest the radium-infused paint, but they didn't worry about it because they were told, repeatedly, that the radium was perfectly safe. It was so safe, in fact, that they would often jokingly paint mustaches and other designs on their faces, enjoying the effect it created when they stood in a darkened room. Even without such playful shenanigans, the women's clothing and hair would shine with luminescence from the accumulation of radium dust from the factory air, which they carried out into the public and home with them. Because of this, they became known as the "Shining Girls."Of course, we know how this ended. The radium was a deadly poison that settled itself in their bones and erupted months or years later into cancerous tumors and other devastatingly fatal conditions. Many of the girls suffered immensely as all of their teeth fell out and their very jawbones disintegrated from the effects of the radium poisoning. Because radium was not understood to be a poison, however, the dentists and doctors that they repeatedly consulted had no idea what was causing their ills. At least one girl was diagnosed as having syphilis, although she had never been sexually active. It took decades for the truth to become known and for at least some of the girls to receive monetary compensation.The story as told by Kate Moore through contemporary accounts, including journals and interviews of the women involved, has several layers that make it interesting beyond the quest for justice by these specific women in this specific circumstance. Moore does a good job of outlining just how anemic were workplace safety regulations during the early 20th century, and how the case of the radium workers spurred stricter oversight of dangerous industries. She also effectively conveys how the science surrounding radium toxicity was laggard, though certainly the companies who hired the women knew it was dangerous and deliberately lied and stonewalled to keep from facing liability after the women began falling ill. Many, many women died before ever receiving the justice of hearing their employer admit they were culpable.Moore writes in a mostly dispassionate tone, although her sympathy clearly lies with the women and there are moments when her indignation on their behalf leaks onto the page. I didn't feel her emotions detracted from the authority of her research and narrative; indeed as I read I was feeling much the same way and in a more emphatic way than she allowed herself to reveal.All in all, it's a useful reminder of what life was like for working people, and women especially, in the days before government organized itself to protect employees from the greed and amorality of their employers.
  • (5/5)
    Absolutely wonderful and moving. Moore gives such humanity to the women who were affected by an industry that cared more for profit than its employees.
  • (4/5)
    This was such an interesting story of the plight of the female worker. It's amazing how far things have come since the 1920. Knowledge is power for sure. 4⭐️
  • (4/5)
    Loved this book. It was very fast paced even though it had a lot of details about the women impacted by the radium. As an American, I am shocked I have never heard of this issue, and I'm grateful the Kate Moore (who is British) took the time to research the stories of these girls and put them on paper, so everyone can learn what happened, and the girls can get the recognition they deserve for fighting against their employee and the radiumindustry so better working condition regulations would eventually be passed.
  • (4/5)
    Anyone who thinks regulation is a dirty word should read this book and wake the hell up. As this book vividly illustrates, corporations will throw their workers under the bus for profits over and over again. That I'm reading this book under a presidential administration that champions deregulation sickens me.
  • (4/5)
    I received this from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

    Fascinating look at the physical and legal plight of the young women hired to paint watch faces and aircraft gages with radium paint. A great look at the background of the establishment of OSHA and worker safety across the US.

    The writing was very good, with Kate Moore drawing the reader right into the women's stories and emotions.

    Highly recommended!
  • (5/5)
    The 1920s was a time of flappers and speakeasies, of jazz and dance, of prohibition and women's suffrage. It was a time of economic growth and industry. It was a time where the arts experienced the rise of creativity, of the Harlem Renaissance, and a time of death for America's working class women. With the invention of Undark, a luminescent paint, came a great demand for watches and gauges with glow-in-the-dark numbers - numbers that were meticulously painted on dials by young women under the guise of the paint being completely safe. Instructed to "lip, dip, paint," these women ingested large amounts of radioactive material during the course of their employment. As a result, many suffered necrosis of their jaws, loss of their teeth and limbs, various cancers, and painfully abnormal growths known as sarcomas on their bodies. Because little was known about radium aside from its ability to target diseased cells, the radioactive substance was considered to be a miracle remedy, capable of bestowing good health on those consuming it. This made the girls, who received high wages for their work, extremely fortunate. At least, until they began dying.

    In The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America's Shining Women unfolds an expertly written account based on the lives, diaries, and several other sources of eleven of the Radium Girls, author Kate Moore brings to life the trials and tribulations that these hard-working women faced in the 1920s and 1930s as they fought for justice in the wake of work-related poisoning. Moore's attention to detail and well-researched facts come together in a heartrending fashion, laying bare the atrocities inflicted by the United States Radium Corporation and the Radiant Dial Corporation upon innocent lives - for their poor handling of a hazardous material reached beyond their employees, affecting not only the women that worked in their factories, but also their families, their children, and future generations.

    I could not suppress the anger that rose up within me as I read these pages. The haunting tale that Moore has penned kept me awake for several nights because it explores the seemingly bottomless depth of how far corporations and those that run them will go to ensure that they are not held accountable for their actions. My heart broke and I wept as I followed these wonderful, optimistic ladies as they fought for justice against those responsible for their conditions. There were times in which I had to lay my book down, for fear of hurling my iPad against the wall because the bitterness and hatred that I felt for those responsible for these poor women was so strong. Moore undoubtedly excels at bringing to life the stories of the living dead and this is one book I definitely intend to put on my shelf.

    I would like to thank the publisher for providing me with an advance copy of The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America's Shining Women by Kate Moore through NetGalley for the purpose of an unbiased review.

    In addition, I would also like to express gratitude to my fellow littens and their unwavering support while I ranted, raved, and swore as I endeavored to finish reading this book.
  • (4/5)
    I'd never heard about this industry until I saw the article in BookPage. Oddly enough though, shortly before reading this book, I read "The Poisoner's Handbook" about the birth of forensic medicine in New York City and there was a chapter in there about radium and this topic! This book goes into much more detail about radium and the dial painting industry.Knowing what we know now, it is hard to believe that anyone ever thought it would be a good idea to ingest radium. But it seems, shortly after its discovery, it was heralded as a miracle and used for medical purposes as well as in making dials luminescent for war and other purposes. The book focuses mainly on United States Radium Corporation (USRC) which was in New Jersey and Radium Dial in Ottawa, IL. Girls of the time sought out the higher paying jobs with the dial painting corporations plus they liked that the radium made them glow. Some of the painting was intricate and the girls were taught to shape the brushes with their mouths--which also meant ingesting some of the radium paint. Not knowing the dangers, some of the girls even painted their teeth or lips with it or put the dust in their hair to have that luminous effect. The book details the maladies that beset the dial painters and that it took a while to find a diagnosis. Phosphorus was suspected because it had known effects on the jaw that were similar to those experienced by some of the girls, but no phosphorus was found in their working environment. (If you're at all a hypochondriac, don't read this book because you will be convinced you have radium poisoning!) Even after scientific evidence became available that radium was harming people who worked with it and that it was leaving behind radioactive evidence, especially in the bodies of the dial painters, the employers and the government did almost nothing to help. The employers hid evidence and denied that there was a problem. Sometimes, they even denied knowing that radium caused problems. Even as many of the girls died at young ages! After some of the male scientists who worked with it died, the laws changed somewhat, but the statute of limitations prevented most of the dial painters from being able to sue their employers/former employers. A few tenacious dial painters managed to find a lawyer who fought their cases for them, even paying some of the fees himself until they won a victory.Afterward, many of the dial painters worked with a government agency to study the effects of internal radiation on the human body. This led to workers on the Manhattan project having stringent safety measures as welll as the eventual ban of above ground nuclear testing.
  • (4/5)
    The story of the dial painters who used radium to create luminous watch dials throughout the early part of the 20th century, and found that no one would listen when they started to die of radium poisoning and asked their former employer to assist with the medical bills. A more than a decade-long fight ensued, with numerous lying and manipulation by the radium companies, often assisted by other people in town who didn't want the area's largest employer to suffer, even if it meant the death of countless young women from horrible diseases. A story that extends from WWI to WWII, and in fact, on beyond, because the challenges faced by the women, and the destruction of their bodies, helped to establish much of our medical knowledge about the risks of radium long past the time of their employment and law suits. Well worth reading, and an easy read, but there are occasional strange uses of words, such as the place where the author refers to "desecration" of the bank balance. Huh? Bank balances are now sacred?
  • (5/5)
    What an incredible story...I was horrified, disgusted, and literally brought to tears by this harrowing tale of the Radium Girls. I had no idea that this happened in our not so distant past, nor did I know that this continued to go on into the late 70s! I applaud those women who changed the future when their's had been taken away from them through greed.

    This is a MUST read! The way the information is delivered keeps you hooked from start to finish. Hands down one of the best non-fiction books I have ever read (listened to).

    #punkrocklibrarian #overdrive #audiobook #nonfiction #historicalnonfiction #radiumgirls
  • (4/5)
    The Radium Girls tells the true story of the women who worked in factories painting clock dials with toxic paint made from radium. The factory owners knew that the luminous material was dangerous but did not pass this information on to the women. The women were paid by piecemeal and the fastest way to paint, and the way they were instructed to paint, was to dip lip. They would put the brush in the radium paint and then put the brush in their mouths so create a point in the brush that would allow them to paint tiny numbers on the clock dials. Little did the women know that they were ingesting poison which caused them to fall sick and die horrible deaths. The radium went straight to the bone. The radium girls had limbs amputated, their jaws disintegrated, they limped, they had all sorts of aches and pains. Doctors and dentists were stumped. They could not diagnose or treat the women. After far too many deaths and failed court cases filed against the clock companies, a group of women win their case in court which results in laws protecting employees in the workplace.
  • (4/5)
    This is a fascinatingly told story of the women who brought lawsuits against the radium/luminous paint companies they worked for in the 1910s and 1920s, and how those suits for damages for occupational poisoning turned out - eventually creating major changes to the laws and heavily influencing (or even being sole contributing data to) the understanding of radiation and harm.The focus is almost entirely on the 11 women who testified in court between 1928 and 1938 and the others whose stories they shared or for whom documentation survives. The author used the testimonies, interviews, and personal letters (when available) to construct likely thoughts, motivations, and daily habits for the women. This gave the book a very moving narrative that alternated between Orange, NJ, and Ottawa, IL, as it nested the stories chronologically.Some of the writing was frustrating to me, though I concede that it certainly made the book more sensational and gripping. I didn't like that every person in the book gets a value-judgment description. We were provided photos of most of the main characters, but still get told that someone has "baby-faced good looks" or "features too small for her face" - what does that last one even mean? the person in the photograph has a perfectly normal face! The tic of always saying "fashionable bob" when describing a woman's short hair almost made me want to start a drinking game.I also didn't like that there was a lot of supposition about daily lives or intimate thoughts put into the narrative, when there are plenty of actual letters and first-hand accounts that tell the story perfectly compellingly without supposing exactly what the person was thinking as they stepped into the street. (Or maybe they did write down their thoughts, and the author just neglected to allude to the letter or diary where they were recorded.) There are extensive references notes in the back, but they aren't very easy to check, and there are no footnotes or other indicators within the text that a reference note is available when there is no allusion to how a fact is known.Finally, I really hated that throughout the book, the women are called "girls". It's minor I suppose, but even when the teenage girls have grown up and some have married and had children, they're still referred to as "girls", and rarely as women. It was a little jarring when the narrative explicitly points out in several places how the women were brushed aside as less than fully human, basically, which is what "girls" does when they are contrasted so often to the men around them.I found this to be a very interesting book and gained valuable insight into OSHA, etc., and the context of certain old movies I enjoy (especially 1937's satirical screwball comedy Nothing Sacred), but I wish the narration were leaner and that the notes section was better.
  • (3/5)
    I remember the old alarm clocks at my grand parents' house with their green numerals and hands that glowed green in the dark. Little did I know that what made those numbers glow was radium and that is was painted on the watch faces by hand by thousands of young women in a factory in Ottowa, Illinois, right near my family's farm.From World War I right through the 1930's these young women worked without protection, exposed to radium dust so that they literally glowed in the dark when they walked home from work. When inevitably they all began to get sick from radiation poisoning, no one wanted to take the blame.The largest part of the book concerns a ten-year law suit brought by 11 women against their employers in order to defray their medical expenses - expenses that were bankrupting their familys. i grew more and more angry as the employers fought with delaying tactics knowing that the plaintiffs were dying off one by one.The book is a prim example of why government health and safety regulations are needed. No business willingly defers profits for the safety of its workers.
  • (4/5)
    The first thing I did after finishing this book was text a note to my brother, a worker's comp attorney, thanking him for what he does. The second thing I am going to do is recommend this to everyone I know. One caveat, if you're going to read this book, you need a strong stomach. What happened to these women is bad enough physically, and the author doesn't pretty up her descriptions. More horrific is what was done to these women in the name of profit.
  • (5/5)
    What an incredible story. These young women suspected they were being slowly killed by their work. They were right. Their employers knew the danger and did nothing to protect them. A riveting story. A true tragedy, ending in a triumph for future generations.
  • (4/5)
    This book shows a dark side of this country's history, one that I'd never heard of. The author does a great job bringing these "girls" to life through the words from their diaries, making it quite personal. They did so much to make the work place safe for future employees, continuing to fight in court when they were physically disabled. I had the audio version. The reader's voice was a little harsh. I gave it 4* and would highly recommend it.
  • (5/5)
    I became aware of this book through the Early Reviewers program, although I didn't win a copy, and a review in the USA Today.This is a very difficult book to read because you know the outcome before you start and that makes you dread turning the pages. However, it is a fascinating subject, one that will make you smack your head and ask "What were they thinking?"The author delves into the personal lives of the women of the dial painting business and shows how devastating it is for the families as well as the young women, particularly those families that have more than one daughter in the business.Again, it is big, fiscally successful business against poor, young immigrant women. But I am thankful the author honors those women who died way too young for someone's greed.My only qualm is that the index does not refer to the correct pages and the notes are difficult to use when there are no page numbers. If those issues were different, because they are important to me, I would rate this a 5 star.
  • (5/5)
    A heartbreaking and harrowing narrative of how big business conspired to kill females beginning in the 1910's. In several town in America, young females were hired to paint radium dials on watches and clocks, unaware of the dangers of radium on their bodies. The companies knew, even to the point of testing many of them, denying the women their own results and even went so far a to falsely claim that nothing harmful was found in their bodies.This did result, many years and deaths later, into enactment of better laws and the establishment of strict workplace safety regulations, but not before these women suffered unimaginable suffering and indignity.You won't read this book for the writing; however, you must read this book as an early example of industry taking advantage of innocent, minimum wage workers and putting innocent people at risk. Many years late, in 1991, the EPA ordered some of these business to "clean up" the sites where these factories stood, but only after these these radium-contaminated sites were found to cause increased incidents of cancer in those areas.