I am halfway through three different books right now but with the noon deadline and all I have to do this morning this will be my last review of 2017.
This has been a fantastic year- 144 books- that were mostly good and several were great (including the following) and while a few were not so great I am not sure how I’ll possibly beat this year for CBR10.
Radium Girls was an excellent book to end the year on; sure it seemed appropriate to end the year with a gift exchange book but it was really and truly a wonderful read. Moore is clearly very passionate about educating people today about the women who lost their lives paving the way for workplace safety standards and the hazards of radioactive materials.
The girls themselves, of course, had no clue that [safety percautions] might even be needed. This was radium, the wonder drug, they were using.
Young girls in the early 20th century flocked to studios like Radium Dial and the United States Radium Coorperation where they hand painted the numbers on clocks with radium so they would glow. The suggested manor to get the paintbrush in a fine enough tip to line the numbers was to “lip point” which involved sticking the radium laced paintbrush into the dial painter’s mouth; some women lip pointed every few numbers other lip pointed a few times for each number. The women would also glow by the end of their shifts since the dust fell liberally around the factory but many women liked the shimmering effect and would paint their nails or wear their best dresses to work so they’d shine everywhere they went. The generous paychecks were also enjoyable but several women began to notice health issues like loose teeth (several women lost their entire lower jaw) and painful hips & legs from the bones shortening in one leg and affecting the dial painter’s gait. Several girls became anemic and a few others suffered miscarriage after miscarriage for unknown reasons.
“Are we in industry to help carry out some soft, silly, social plan? Are we in industry to buy the goodwill of the employees? No. We are in industry because it is good business.”
It took a painfully long time to get the women properly diagnosed, several had left their jobs months or even years before their symptom showed, and since the women weren’t all showing the same symptoms or even connecting it back to their jobs it further delayed their diagnosis. One poor woman, among the first to die, had her cause of death listed as syphilis.
Once the women began to connect their ailments to radium they began the arduous battle for recognition and compensation by the radium companies. Most of the women had eaten through their savings from their generous dial painting paychecks and couldn’t afford their mounting medical bills. Their condition was horribly painful and required numerous prescriptions to comfort them and weekly doctor visits; many were bedridden. A few women began looking for legal representation but their lack of funds and the deep pockets of corporate radium made for a lengthy fight with too many casualties. Most of these women knew they were served a life sentence (although several didn’t and discovered in court they were terminal!) with radium poisoning but wanted their plight to help others and cover their medical expenses so they didn’t leave their loved ones in debt. They were also angry. The section on the court cases, and how long everything took (over a decade), was the saddest but most interesting part of the book. Many of these women didn’t live to see their day in court.
Several of the women who suffered radium poisoning donated their bodies to science so they could continue educating people about radium long after they were gone. They were brave soldiers on the frontlines of radioactivity and workers’ rights.
Moore delivers a well researched and engaging story; this doesn’t even read like non-fiction but more like a fast paced thriller that is part medical enigma part legal drama. These women really were heroes and the author does an excellent job at shinning a light on their incredible story. A must read!
See you in 2018!!