The Radium Girls, The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women by Kate Moore; 2017; $26.99; 479 pages; Sourcebooks, Naperville, IL; 978-1-4926-4935-9; checked out from Multnomah County Library, Fairview; 10/10/18-10/14/18
Why did I read this? This is the Corner Reading Society’s November selection.
In the early 1900’s and into World War I luminous dials were popular on watches and in airplane instruments. The luminosity came from paint with radium in it. The young women, some as young as 14 were instructed to point their paint brushes by putting the brushes in their mouths. Many of the women’s teeth began to fall out and their jaws also began to fall out, many of them also developed sarcoma’s in different areas of their bodies. The companies they worked for knew of the dangers involved but never informed the women. They also denied it when reports began to be made public. It took several lawsuits for the companies to accept responsibility and be held financially responsible for the medical bills. Many of the women did not make it out of their twenties before they died. Their demise and the companies corruption begat OHSA.
10/10, the strength of this book is that the author concentrated on the human aspect of the story. She vividly brought to life the young women, their families and the despicable businessmen who refused to acknowledge their culpability.
What is with the title of the review? One of the things that came out of what happened to The Radium Girls was the formation of the Occupational Health and Safety Administration.