I’m going to say from the start that The Radium Girls is going on my list of all-time favorites. This haunting story will stay with me forever. This work of non-fiction is reminiscent of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks combined a gut-wrenching story of corporate evil not seen since Erin Brockavich.
When radium was first discovered, it was thought to be a wonder substance. It was used as a tonic, as a body lotion, and even combined with paint to create luminescent faces on watches. The Radium Dial company employed young women to paint these watch faces. Lip, Dip, Paint. This describes the procedure the girls were to use with their paintbrushes. As the girls put the brushes to their lips, they were unknowingly placing a highly radioactive material right into their mouths. And that isn’t all. There were no safeguards. The radium dust was everywhere. And soon the radium became a part of them, working it’s way into their bones, destroying those bones, creating cancerous tumors, eating it’s way through their bodies. At first, even the doctors didn’t know what was wrong. But eventually they figured it out. Too many girls at the company had become ill. Too many young girls had died. The company employed their own doctors and did their own testing. They knew, but they lied about it. They knew it was killing their employees and they did nothing to stop it.
I’m haunted by these women. I’m amazed at the tenacity they showed in their attempts at justice. This is an amazing book and I’m so glad that author Kate Moore took the time to share this story.
5 stars (out of 5)
Published in 2017
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