Review: The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women by Kate Moore

The incredible true story of the women who fought America’s Undark danger.

The Curies’ newly discovered element of radium makes gleaming headlines across the nation as the fresh face of beauty, and wonder drug of the medical community. From body lotion to tonic water, the popular new element shines bright in the otherwise dark years of the First World War.

Meanwhile, hundreds of girls toil amidst the glowing dust of the radium-dial factories. The glittering chemical covers their bodies from head to toe; they light up the night like industrious fireflies. With such a coveted job, these “shining girls” are the luckiest alive — until they begin to fall mysteriously ill.

But the factories that once offered golden opportunities are now ignoring all claims of the gruesome side effects, and the women’s cries of corruption. And as the fatal poison of the radium takes hold, the brave shining girls find themselves embroiled in one of the biggest scandals of America’s early 20th century, and in a groundbreaking battle for workers’ rights that will echo for centuries to come.

Written with a sparkling voice and breakneck pace, The Radium Girls fully illuminates the inspiring young women exposed to the “wonder” substance of radium, and their awe-inspiring strength in the face of almost impossible circumstances. Their courage and tenacity led to life-changing regulations, research into nuclear bombing, and ultimately saved hundreds of thousands of lives…

The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women by Kate Moore.  Published  by Sourcebooks 2017.  Hardback, 479 pages.  Originally published in the UK by Simon & Schuster UK,  2016.  Read for Non-fiction November 2018.

Wow.  This book was really good!  I knew a little bit about the story  before and when this book came out last year, I wanted to read it so bad. It sat on my TBR list for a while.  I am so glad I finally got to sit down to read it!

The Radium Girls takes you from the very beginning of the story in the early 1900s and, in great detail, walks you through everything that happened.  This book was very well researched.  There are so many direct quotes from the people involved that all came from personal letters and diaries to court documents to direct interviews with the women and their families.  I can’t even begin to imagine how much time it took to dig through all this information.  At the end of the book, when the story of the women is over, you learn about how it isn’t truly over, because of what happened to those women, we now have so much information about radiation and laws about safety in the work place, and their legacy lives on through these rules and regulations.

We all know of the big bad corporations.  The soul sucker corporations.  The bad guys.  But this book really takes your perspective of that to a whole new level when you see legit letters and memos passed between board members and employees talking about how it didn’t matter the women were dying because they wanted money, how they bribed and manipulated people to cover up the women getting sick and dying,  how there are documents of contradictory lying in court to cover their ass,  how they had flat out lied in multiple ads in the paper saying things were fine, how they employed doctors to give them good results no matter what the real results were, how they made agreements in court to pay for damages and clean up and then found loop holes to get out of it,  etc.   It was truly disgusting behavior and I don’t know how anyone could seriously live with themselves, knowing so many women were dying because of their product but not saying anything so they could keep making money.

I really loved this book.  It was a very fascinating and in depth look in to this important story.  BUT.  It was really hard to read on a few levels.  First, it felt like I could hardly get past a couple of paragraphs before I had to set the book down for a few mins because what I had just read made me so pissed off.  And there is a LOT of stuff in this book that will piss you off.  I was constantly just yelling at the book “OMFG!!! 😡 ”  or ” ARE YOU FUCKING SERIOUS?!! 😡  ”  Every time the companies did another cover up or lie or some other stupid thing, AGH! It was frustrating!!  Because of this it felt like I was reading at a snails pace.   Second, the author does not shy away from giving you many, many details about the medical problems the women were suffering.  Fair warning, there is a LOT of pus.  And leakage from just about everywhere.  I am normally not a very squeamish person, but every time I read “….pus filled her mouth….” I had to set the book down for a min or two and get that image out of my head and the taste out of my mouth. BLEH.  It was pretty gross in some spots.

The book had a section of several photos of the people involved throughout the story.  They were all black and white and unfortunately, some of them had not held up very well.  Even though some were not in the best shape, you still got a feel for who these people were and what they went through.  Included in the photo section are photos of several key people to the story- the girls, family, doctors, lawyers, etc; some location shots;  a few showing tumors from the radiation; and several from the court cases.  I wished the photo section would have been a little bit bigger, but we still got to see plenty.

This was a really fascinating book about a very tragic event.  Incredibly well researched.  There are many direct quotes from the people involved.  This book is a must read, even though there are several times you will be frustrated or pissed off about what is happening to these women.  Warning to anyone who is squeamish because there are a few times where descriptions of what the women were suffering can be a little gross and disturbing.  Over all, Radium Girls was a great book and I’d recommend it to anyone.


One thought on “Review: The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women by Kate Moore

  1. This sounds fascinating! I’ve watched some documentaries along these lines and I’d love to read this. Thanks for your wonderful review!

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