Kate Moore's "Radium Girls" is a gripping thriller of the doomed dial-painters and their fight for workers’ rights against the corrupt Corporation. OnKate Moore's "Radium Girls" is a gripping thriller of the doomed dial-painters and their fight for workers’ rights against the corrupt Corporation. Only, this is not a fictional thriller. This really happened.
Moore's ability to tell a story is truly captivating. From the beginning we meet the girls: young teens and older excited for a well-paying job. They work hard as they laugh, talk, and dance in the evenings with their beaus. We know something bad is going to happen, but the excitement of the girls to make a decent wage and help their families, not to mention buy fabulous clothes, is happy and infectious.
We know something bad it going to happen. Eventually their bodies start acting strange, and almost immediately the full horrors of radium poisoning emerge. Beforehand I had a small idea of what they went through but I was truly horrified at the details.
"Radium Girls" was difficult to put down but there were times when I had to put it down because the company's behavior is rage-inducing. Some of the doctor’s too.
Moore’s attention to the families and the husbands of the girls was especially heartbreaking. Not only are the girls suffering from unimaginable pain and disfigurement but their families have to watch and feel powerless. Moore reminds us of the happy marriages where the couple is smiling and has plans for children, only for us to follow and bear witness to the miscarriages, the anger and guilt, and then the aftermath as the husband's, parents and children move on after the girls have died. Some later get sick from exposure.
It’s strange to say I loved this book. What’s more accurate to say is this captivated me from beginning to end. I learned the intimate lives of these women and their families. I learned of their courage and their perseverance. I felt myself inspired by them, especially in the small things, such as when the ladies wanted to look their best, despite their crippling conditions. While the focus of this book is on the dial-painters, one can’t help but think of such novels as The Jungle, the men and women experimented on in World War II, the Tuskegee experiment, and many, many more.
It is rage-inducing.This is the dark side of science, when human beings are treated as things to be manipulated for knowledge. This is not so dissimilar to the dark side of capitalism.
In “Radium Girls” I clung to the doctors, lawyers, reporters, and government inspectors who stood up for the dial-painters and their families. Moore acknowledges what the dial-painters showed us after their death too. It can be grim. Much of what we know relating to the dangers of radioactive substance is because of the dial-painters. It's terrible to acknowledge that something like this "had" to happen for there to be laws about it. Or that something like this may have “had” to happen otherwise we wouldn’t have known about the dangers. I’m happy I have read this and I know their stories, though I’d be lying if I said it didn’t leave me angry and sad too. ...more