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May/Jun 18 The Hate/Radium Girls > The Radium Girls by Kate Moore - Reviews

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message 1: by [deleted user] (last edited May 03, 2018 04:22PM) (new)

Hello there!

Please note that this post may contain traces of spoilers (or spoils not sure which word is correct here). If you have not taken all the appropriate conditions by reading the book first please, I advice you not to go further for your reading safety!

First, I must admit that when I saw this book in the poll I mainly noticed the word radium, I guess my curiosity was caught by the light emanating from this element in the title because I am myself a chemist. So, I was, of course, biased (but who is fully objective? :) ). Please, do not blame me, my work is motivated by the wish to reduce pollution while increasing safety (and not only for humans)! Just prefer to mention that since we, chemists, usually have a bad reputation.

In my opinion, there were some longueurs in the book but they were essential to correctly set up the painting and honored people who suffered from that tragic story.

This book was kind of mirror of what I knew about science, and of what I see every day. Safety or lack of safety, being rigorous or rushing without thinking about the consequences, knowledge versus ignorance and manipulation. Greed vs altruism.

(view spoiler)

In a way, even if this story is horrible (just like many other stories, the word horrible is an euphemism) I think their fight was really beautiful.

Fighting for what is right knowing that you won't benefit from it because you are somehow sentenced to death (and/or you will just pass away before seeing any results), that you are not even sure that what you are doing will help, is, in my opinion one of the most selfless thing.

Great book that honores the memory of those women.
I bow before their strenght and courage!

Ps: I really liked the 40 pages of references, it shows how great the work of the author was.


message 2: by Allie (new)

Allie (goodreadscomallisonnaylor) | 11 comments I read this book a couple of month ago on my own. It absolutely broke my heart. I read the chapter about the death of the first girl right before bed, and I had the hardest time falling asleep that night thinking about her horrific death.

The book frustrated me as well. The way the girls were treated by the companies and the corporate greed involved angered me to my core. The more frustrating part is that, of course, this type of thing still happens today.

What also struck me was how the towns turned against the girls. These towns were so dependent upon the radium dial companies that when the girls got sick and filed claims against the companies, their towns turned against them and shunned them. In my opinion, this type of thing happens in working class areas of America today as well. The townspeople's livelihoods are so intertwined with a single company or industry in the town, that they would shun, criticize, and demean those who criticize or file lawsuits against those companies. Even though the entire country was on the radium girls' side after reading about the case, the people they grew up alongside were angry, not because these girls were suffering, but because it was impacting the town's economy and job prospects.

However, if there is an upside to what these poor women suffered, it is that these women led the charge for the first workers compensation and corporate negligence claims of their kind. As a result of their fight, workers in the United States today are given much better protections and remedies than they would have been otherwise. It is just sad that it took all of these women getting sick and dying for companies to be forced to take care of their workers, and it is sad that these fights still take place in many industries today.

To me, this is the ultimate tale of corporate greed, but also of perseverance. Those girls refused to succumb to their illnesses and injuries until the companies were held accountable and no worker had to suffer what they suffered again.


message 3: by Charlene (new)

Charlene Morris | 89 comments I haven't read it yet, but I found this book blogger interview with the author.

http://avalinahsbooks.space/interview...


message 4: by Dee (new)

Dee (serendipidee) | 12 comments Warning: This is only a partial review as I had to put the book down due to a broken heart.

The Radium Girls had me from the Prologue. At first you think it’s going to be super slow and boring, but it surprised me. The writing is well-done, as is the research, and I enjoy the way it jumps from girl to girl.

I do find the lack of ethics in early 20th century businesses to be disheartening and scary.

I just can’t mentally move past Mollie. I keep trying to read the next chapters, but I can’t concentrate. Did anyone else get stuck like that? It shocked me to my core. I think I need a hug now. *sigh*


message 5: by Allie (new)

Allie (goodreadscomallisonnaylor) | 11 comments Dee wrote: "Warning: This is only a partial review as I had to put the book down due to a broken heart.

The Radium Girls had me from the Prologue. At first you think it’s going to be super slow and boring, bu..."


Yes. I commented above as well, but after I read about Mollie, I couldn't sleep that night. I made the mistake of reading it right before bed, and I was horrified.


message 6: by Anna (last edited May 09, 2018 01:55PM) (new)

Anna | 38 comments Allie wrote: "I read this book a couple of month ago on my own. It absolutely broke my heart. I read the chapter about the death of the first girl right before bed, and I had the hardest time falling asleep that..."

I also made that mistake... I just wanted to read a few chapters before going to sleep yesterday, but I ended up finishing it in one go.
(view spoiler)

Heartbreaking story and not so suited for bedtime reading, gah..


message 7: by Anna (new)

Anna | 38 comments Just finished it yesterday, phew it was a tough one...

With the modern knowledge about radioactivity, both acute and long term damages, it is kind of eerie to read about the gren glow that sourrounds the girls when they walk home from work, due to the amount of radioactive dust on their clothes and skin.

I admired the way the women came to terms with their harsh destiny as they kept struggling for justice for the sake of their deceased friends, their family and to avoid this horrible fate from befalling anyone else. They had unique friendships and were fiercely loyal to one another.

People at that time knew little about radioactivity. Even though, scientifically, radium had been known to be dangerous from the age of 1901, it was not common knowledge, and most of the factory owners did not realize the extent of the danger to begin with. But failing to take proper precautions when faced with new knowledge about radiation and its hazardous effects, refusing to acknowledge the complaints of the former dial painters, refusing to investigate the various symptoms and its correlation to radium exposure, covering up examinations, medical records and autopsy reports, that was nothing short of evil.

I was impressed by the author's vast amount of knowledge about everything from the legal process to the life and death of several of the ‘radium girls’. It is a heartbreaking story, yet also a story of power and victory as they unite and stand up against the people who have wronged them. Despite being a work of non-fiction, the book is a page-turner, which I read in only a few days. The girls come very much alive and their voice is heard. From their suffering and we have gained important knowledge about radiation exposure, and they helped preventing it from happening to others (I hope).


message 8: by Britt (last edited May 25, 2018 01:29AM) (new)

Britt | 123 comments Allie wrote: "I read this book a couple of month ago on my own. It absolutely broke my heart. I read the chapter about the death of the first girl right before bed, and I had the hardest time falling asleep that night thinking about her horrific death.

The book frustrated me as well. The way the girls were treated by the companies and the corporate greed involved angered me to my core. The more frustrating part is that, of course, this type of thing still happens today.


I feel exactly the same! I finished reading this book last night and I'm absolutely heartbroken. I didn't know about these events until I read this book, and I just felt so frustrated and sad while reading about what happened and how the girls were basically left to die by their companies. It took me a long time to fall asleep every time I read a chapter before going to bed, as I would just mull everything over in my head again and again, only to conclude that this probably wasn't even the last time something like that happened and it is probably still going on (with other materiels/companies) somewhere in the world. :(

Florian wrote: "In a way, even if this story is horrible (just like many other stories, the word horrible is an euphemism) I think their fight was really beautiful.

Fighting for what is right knowing that you won't benefit from it because you are somehow sentenced to death (and/or you will just pass away before seeing any results), that you are not even sure that what you are doing will help, is, in my opinion one of the most selfless thing."


I completely agree. These women were so brave to continue the fight even though they knew they had nothing to gain, except for recognition! I think the erection of the statue in their honour in 2011 is therefore completely justified and a great gesture of the town (which, let's not forget, turned their backs on the girls' cases at first).


message 9: by Lolin (new)

Lolin (lolinloggen) | 6 comments As I said in my review I learned about the case through a work related course.
Yes the story is heartbreaking, bewildering and infuriating at the same time

From my review: What struck me is that when it were poor women nobody would listen. But when it as a rich man (Eben Byers) dying of radium poisoning they did. To me that underpins the story of both social inequality and gender inequality.
PS Eben Beyers even gets noted on wikipedia as the reason the law changed (His case helped. It was Charlotte Donahue that really pushed the laws into being)

More than anything it shows how determination and working together, being a team and trusting the other team members (as they stepped back for Charlotte to be the lead case) can bring any house down.
But it also shows (in the epilogue)that even when laws are changed and risks are known people that have little choices will accept a high risk job as the priority is and will remain o get food on the table.
Reading the book it again made me aware that I am in a rather comfortable position. Not only am I in a comfortable, nicely paying job. I can afford to be infuriated but social inequality and do something about it.
More that becoming sad about the story I am sad and angry that this type o story is still happening around the world It reminds me that there are these fights are still happening around the world. More than half a century after this case.
And yes a lot of these labour laws are now into place, doe not mean they are always adhered to, nor that people are being prosecuted for breaking them That saddens me, that infuriated me.

I guess reawakening of some social and political interests I have, have been coming to the surface again


message 10: by Alyson (new)

Alyson Stone (alysonserenastone) | 149 comments Book: The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women
Author: Kate Moore
Rating: 5 Out of 5 Stars

An Our Shared Shelf book! It’s been awhile since I’ve read one, because I’ve been having trouble getting them in from my library. Let me start out by saying that this is not like any Our Shared Shelf book or any book I’ve read for that matter. I have seen a lot people complain that some feminism books just cram the movement down their throats, but not this one. This one brings to light actual suffering that women have endured at the hands of large cooperation. Anyway, The Radium Girls is probably my favourite one to date. There is just something about it that has really drawn into the girls’ story.

Yes, this book is nonfiction, but Kate has an emotional punch in her writing that is sure to pull you into the girls’ world and you just cannot help but to feel for them. Prior to reading, I was a little familiar with the radium industry, but not a lot. It was brought up in a documentary that I watched last year for about five minutes. I just kind of put it in the back of my mind and moved on. However, after reading this book, I will never be able to forget these strong and incredible women. Without them, we may still be using radium in our every day lives and many more of us would be suffering from their awful fate-a fate where death was the only way to have peace.

I read a number of emotional books and all of them do hit hard. However, this one is different; it’s a lot different. This one is real and the events in the book really did happen. That’s what makes it such a haunting read. You can actually visit these women’s graves and meet their families. It’s eerily and it will make you feel sick to your stomach. It will tear at your heart, especially if you’ve ever watch someone go through a long and serious illness.

We get to see how something, in case this bad, can bring women together. These women are strong and will not bow down in the face of evil. Yes, what the companies put them through is pure evil. This book is the prefect example of there being strength in numbers and how coming together really can get the job done. It will make you question just what really is important life. Sure, these women were after money, but look back. How many of them wanted the money to make sure that their families were taken care of?

The Radium Girls came be a hard book to handle. It will hit you hard, make you think, and you will walk away in horror. When I was reading it, it just kept coming and coming back to me. I don’t think I will ever be able to get these girls’ out of my head.


message 11: by Trinity (new)

Trinity Wick | 1 comments Yes to all of that. This book really shined a spotlight on corporate greed and I could not have been more impressed with how these women--in the face of such adversity--handled their diagnoses and their cases with so much grace and perseverance. I am flabbergasted that the radioactive waste was still being cleaned up in 2015 and continues to plague communities.

Alyson, your description of this book being haunting is spot-on.


message 12: by Barbara (new)

Barbara | 4 comments I'm only half way through this book, and I feel completely drained. I find myself so filled with frustration, disgust, and sadness that I often have to set the book aside and do something to make me feel happy. I am SO glad someone documented this story in a compelling way. I am SO glad these women fought as they did all those years ago. But I am not sure I want to finish because we know the ending and it's just so gut wrenching to read. Did you all read to the end???


message 13: by Barbara (new)

Barbara | 4 comments Only once before has a story with a known ending moved me so much...Apollo 13, the film. It takes a truly gifted writer to leave you on the edge of your seat--cheering, cursing, praying!!-- when you already know what is going to happen. Moore is one of those truly gifted writers.


message 14: by Jade Bookworm (last edited Jun 03, 2018 04:24AM) (new)

Jade Bookworm | 3 comments I was horrified by the women’s story – particularly as there was evidence quite early on in the book that the company was aware of the effects of the radium paint. The physical suffering of the women was horrendous and I think Moore captures it well. The book comes across as meticulously researched and regularly draws on primary evidence, but I think I would have enjoyed it more as a more fictional telling of the story or if the evidence was blended more thoroughly into the prose. As it stands, it reads more as a scholarly or non-fiction study whilst I think more of a novelisation – such as Victoria Hislop did with the leper colony in The Island – would have portrayed the women more fully as characters and we could have got to know them better and become more immersed in the story itself. However, these were, of course, real people and there are risks with creating a more novelised account. I’m glad that the epilogue allowed us to finish following the women’s stories after Catherine’s trial and the postscript must not be missed – striking and alarming; a very powerful ending which deserved to be a main chapter. I have to admit that I didn't find it the easiest read in terms of pace - lots of meticulous detail and going round in circles with court cases meant that I felt I was inching forward.


message 15: by Kate (new)

Kate Griffiths (katemarie7griffithsgmailcom) | 73 comments Well first off I want to say that I loved this book and Kate Moore covers some really hard topics and parts of history that people don’t tend to want to revisit or acknowledge they exist. Some may say the past is in the past, but you have to understand the past to make a brighter future. That is something Kate Moore does really well (she does everything really well in this book) but that too.
Another thing that this book tackles beautifully -which I didn’t know happened- was how popular radium ‘really’ was! It was a elixir of youth. People drank it like a vitamin. It was in pretty much anything you could think of.
A good message and one I don’t think ‘I’ myself have learnt until reading this book, is how little I ask questions with what’s in my hair products and what’s in my skin care products. I use them all the time and I never can really tell you what’s in the ingredients. Not to scare myself but just to learn, what does this do? You know.
How certain safety regulations can save life’s and what life was like before they got put in place was yet another factor that really was in this books favour. These women were seen, unjustly so, as mad, or just picking a poor fight at the radium dial company. Yet we know today how dangerous radium really is!
The women in this book were portrayed wonderfully and I can give the greatest compliment to this book, I feel I have met them! I feel like I know ‘The Radium Girls’. Every single one of them!
I love also that the radium in the book was described perfectly as a kind of spell and had bewitching properties! How is was cursing the women and how touching it could be dire for your health.
This book does not shy away from the disturbing way their bodies were decaying, I felt like I’ve heard everything and then I realised these were only ‘some’ of the works in the factory which is quite frankly disgusting. Also how they were shunned by the company and their trip to justice was not an easy road. They suffered a lot and not just due to the radium poisoning.
The radium company itself which once was a place where the girls made friends, by the end you’re just sickened by the place and you don’t want anyone in there. Kate Moore created that grandness of the ‘studio’ and turned it on it’s head. Which was really well done. The girls were no longer welcome workers at the radium dial company.
The writing was splendid and always complimented the story and I have to give credit where credit is due to Kate Moore for doing such diligent research into these women and their story. I can’t wait to see what she does next! I would definitely read another book from her and I hope she does.
The book itself was well paced and I loved reading this bit so much, it sucked me in and held me in its grip. Please check it out. I would highly recommend you do.


message 16: by Lolin (new)

Lolin (lolinloggen) | 6 comments Gilraens wrote: "As I said in my review I learned about the case through a work related course.
Yes the story is heartbreaking, bewildering and infuriating at the same time

From my review: What struck me is that w..."


Just wanted to add that I passed this book on to a professional contact. In his line of work (crisis management education) he uses examples of nuclear installation accidents and the human casualties. He always used the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombing as examples of more casualties, but that is still a big boom. I told him to add this one, as it is a peacetime non big boom nuclear use with many casualties.
I was struck by the fact that he admitted he'd never heard about the case and that he is more than interested in reading up on it.
It shows that this story needs to be told.


message 17: by Riley (new)

Riley Ashby (rileyashby) I loved this book! What these young women went through was horrific but I was in awe of how hard they fought for justice when the entire world was against them. And the impact it had on safety standards in use today cannot be diminished - they literally gave their lives to save hundreds and thousands more.


message 18: by Terri (new)

Terri I guess I'm in the minority here. :(
I did not like this book. I loved the story and felt that it was a powerful story that needs to be told. But I didn't like the way the author chose to tell it. In all honesty, I didn't finish it, which bothered me because I really wanted to follow the fight for justice all the way through till the end. But the writing was just a major no for me.


message 19: by Pam (new)

Pam | 1091 comments Mod
Terri wrote: "I guess I'm in the minority here. :(
I did not like this book. I loved the story and felt that it was a powerful story that needs to be told. But I didn't like the way the author chose to tell it...."


I felt the same Terri.


message 20: by Pam (new)

Pam | 1091 comments Mod
From my review:

Moritamor te salutamus: For those about to die, we salute thee.

The tale of the Radium Girls is one that needed to be told. At ages 16 - 25, young women during the roaring twenties were lucky enough to have a job that offered you a stool to sit on, let alone working on something as high paying as a dial painter. Dial Painting required the girls to "point" the the tips of their paintbrush by putting it in their mouths and swirl. Lip, Dip, Paint. Ingesting fine amounts of radium with each stroke of their brush. Nothing to worry about, said the company leaders, as radium was the source of life and vitality, a wonder drug back in the day. 5+ years later, the once vibrant girls began to die off. And no one wanted to point the finger back at radium.

This is a David and Goliath story regarding human rights, workers rights, corporate oversight, and the inability to change or admit fault. The Girl's trials are now recorded in legal history and HR/ Safety manuals. Our own understanding of radium and atomic energy is due to these "shining" women.

But I question if Moore was the one who needed to write this tale. Her contribution is clunky and awkward. To be fair, this story wasn't about one person; there were many characters involved, many villains to lay the blame, and numerous points of reference. The breadth of her research is outstanding.

But that does not forgive Moore from creating a mismatch of ideas that would refute each other in the next sentence, leading statements that were unnecessary pointless jabs from the author, or the lack of creating the stage such as explaining how this silent generation who was just given the right to vote would be so cavalier and trusting. How dependent these women were on the system. etc. etc. And more the point, you never really get to know these women. Instead Moore explains to you a flitting detail of the woman's hair next to a string of five other women's hair colors, each one merrier and prettier than the last. At times Moore's Radium Girls read like a yearbook, no story save for the author's desperate attempt to describe a photo and differ it from the next photo. That's not a narrative!

This is a tale fit for the movies, so much plot, intrigue, and challenges to overcome that it practically writes itself. And yet, somehow, Moore still bungled it

Edit: 7.6.18 updated the rating because I am more upset about this after watching her video interview. 1) she only spent a few months on the book/play. But don't worry, cause she is a fast typer. And 2) Even her husband thought it was confusing. Her solution was to add a chart for the names up front, instead of writing cleaner copy or doing more research. Gah!


message 21: by Nanna Stacey (new)

Nanna Stacey Terri wrote: "I guess I'm in the minority here. :(
I did not like this book. I loved the story and felt that it was a powerful story that needs to be told. But I didn't like the way the author chose to tell it...."


Yep I completely agree Terri! I am currently about half way and am really struggling to keep going. I don't like stopping at all let alone half way, but I am also finding the writing hard to read.


message 22: by Terri (new)

Terri What about the writing style didn't you two like? Just curious, I totally understand not liking a book because of that

My complaints are sort of similar to Pam's:
1. You never get to know the women. You just read about how pretty they are and how much they love picnics and dancing. There's no real emotional connection.
2. This is controversial, but there are way too many characters. I really understand that the author wanted to tell every single woman's story. I respect her for that. But after a while I mixed all the women together. Add the fact that there are two different radium companies ... oh boy.
3. The writing was confused. Sometimes it was totally factual and read like a newspaper article. Other times it read like a work of fiction. Especially when she would say things like "He sighed in frustration". You can't say things like that about real people if you weren't there. It's as though the author wasn't sure what type of book she was aiming for.


message 23: by Megan (new)

Megan Mainiero | 3 comments I also struggled through this book because I had a hard time connecting with it until the last 100 pages (Catherine Donahue's story). I think that the book honestly reflects the painfulness and length of time between the original harm and the justice. In that respect, I felt like the author did a great job. But, I needed to connect with the characters to make this effective and I just couldn't.

I ended up giving it 4 stars because I think the story is worth 5 stars, but the book is a 3. The index pages in my copy of the book were wrong. When I was trying to piece the story together and match up the stories with the women, I would look to the index at the back of the book to find where the women were referenced before so I could go back and read the other parts of their story. The fact that I had to do this several times was kind of frustrating, but then the fact that the index was wrong and I would have to search for 15 minutes to find what I was looking for was upsetting.

This would make a wonderful documentary!


message 24: by David (new)

David Cromarty | 35 comments Emma wrote: "Terri wrote: " What about the writing style didn't you two like? Just curious, I totally understand not liking a book because of that

My complaints are sort of similar to Pam's:
1. You never get ..."


I agree absolutely. This book was absolutely devastating as it is. If the story had focused on fewer girls and allowed us to get to know them better it would have been even more so. (Plus, it would have arguably been unfair to those girls who weren't focused on.)

So much in the book spoke to me - on a visceral level, what the radium does to the girls is just horrific. (I have a long-held fear of losing my teeth, so some sections were very difficult to read.) As a parent, the idea of being unable to take care of your children or see them grow up is heartbreaking. And as for the repeated crimes of the companies - that radium was still being used as recently as 1978 is mindboggling, as are the lengths they went to to avoid admitting responsibility.

However, what the reader is left with is a tale of inconceivable bravery - I feel like the long battle for justice would defeat many healthy people, but that they kept fighting as their sickness worsened... no words can do those people justice.


message 25: by Charlene (new)

Charlene Morris | 89 comments I just finished last night. It was definitely an emotional roller coaster. Even though there was different writing styles in the book, it showed that the author was emotionally invested in the girls.

I liked how it was written but I totally get that with so many characters it was confusing. I wonder if it was organized differently would help. Like having a New Jersey section then an Illinois section. I felt that even though it was the same cause, that the distance between the two factories really caused a division in knowledge.


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