The Radium Girls by Kate Moore is the story or the saga of hundreds of young women lured by glamour and high salaries into a job that would ultimately cost many of them their lives. In the early 20th century, illuminated dials were vogue and even more became necessary for pilots flying missions at night and able to see their instruments. The illumination came from painting the dials with luminescent materials and in many cases that element was radium. Most of us now know the potential health affects of radioactive materials, but back then they didn’t; it was even marketed as having health benefits.
Needless to say, this is a very tragic story, but so well written and compelling I consider it a MUST READ!. You will likely shudder in horror when you read the accounts of these young women, some as young as teenagers. You’ll likely shed tears when reading this, but hopefully you realize that the suffering of these women became one of the biggest pushes toward understating the dangers of radioactive material and more importantly the advent of increased attention to workplace safety. Thank you Radium Girls!
“On sale were radium jockstraps and lingerie, radium butter, radium milk, radium toothpaste (guaranteeing a brighter smile with every brushing) and even a range of Radior cosmetics, which offered radium-laced face creams, soap, rouge, and compact powders. Other products were more prosaic: “The Radium Eclipse Sprayer,” trumpeted one ad, “quickly kills all flies, mosquitoes, roaches. [It] has no equal as a cleaner of furniture, porcelain, tile. It is harmless to humans and easy to use.”
“Radium was a clever poison. It masked its way inside its victims’ bones; it foxed the most experienced physicians. And like the expert serial killer it was, it had now evolved its modus operandi. Ella had developed what was called a sarcoma: a cancerous tumor of the bone. She was the first known dial-painter to die from such a thing—but she would not be the last.”
“Some women survived for forty years or more—but the radium always came calling in the end.”