“Radium was a silent stalker, hiding behind that mask, using its disguise to burrow deep into the women’s jaws and teeth.”
What if the whole world told you something was safe and then that thing ended up being deadly and killed you? That is exactly what happened to the radium girls – women in the 1930s and 40s who painted radium on watch and clock face dials. They took a paintbrush, dipped it in water, made a point with their lips and then dipped it in radium paint – and repeated over and over, ingesting radium. They were told it was safe and even healthy for them, but years later, they all started developing deadly symptoms.
I stumbled upon The Radium Girls by accident. I was looking for books about women who worked on the Manhattan Project and when I saw radium in the title, I thought it would be about that, so I bought it as a BookBub daily deal. I’m so glad I read it because I learned about a part of history that had never come across my radar. It’s a story that should be more widely known.
As the radium girls started getting sick, doctors couldn’t figure out what was happening because they all saw different doctors. As pieces of the puzzle started falling into place, the doctors and girls then had to fight to seek justice for the damage done to their bodies from their jobs. It was an uphill battle as the radium companies did not want to accept responsibility. The women would not give up – they had been given a death sentence and their families should be taken care of since many faced bankruptcy due to the extensive medical bills the women received.
I would highly recommend this book to anyone high school age and older. It is definitely a part of history worth knowing as the women’s fight for justice changed the rules for the workforce and even impacted how radioactive materials were handled by the Manhattan Project workers. There was even an extensive cleanup in New Jersey from where the plant has disposed of radium. Read this book and then let me know – I’d love to discuss it with you at the Online Book Club for the book.
Have you ever heard of the radium girls? Comment below!