Thursday, May 4, 2017

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

The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America's Shining WomenThe Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America's Shining Women by Kate Moore
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm not going to sugar coat this. It is a heart breaking book. It is also incredibly inspiring. The author personalizes the girls that worked as dial painters beginning in the 1920s where radium was the new magic chemical. It healed, made your cheeks rosy, and was completely harmless. The girls were mostly very young, loved life, and had an optimistic future ahead of them. They were paid well to paint the dials with preciseness using their lips to point their brushes.

Naturally, we know how very dangerous radium is. One fact I found extremely fascinating is that radium consists of three known radioactive rays; alpha, beta, and gamma. Alpha rays do not do much damage as they can be stopped by something as thin as a piece of paper or skin. The other rays are the ones that burn the skin and cause damage from the inside out. Yet alpha rays are the most damaging if they get past the epidermis. Like if you lick your paintbrush into a point in order to paint a dial.

The book follows the women personally through their deteriorating health and then efforts to find medical help, compel the companies to pay for the medical help, and change practices. The corruption in the companies is appalling. The women use every bit of their waning energy to make changes in policy and be reimbursed for medical bills which have devastated them particularly in the wake of the Depression. They are pioneers in changing the policies of safety in the workplace and holding companies accountable for injury.

I feel like I got to know so many of the women personally through the narrative provided. It was historical and biographical yet almost written as a novel.

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