A New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal Bestseller!
"the glowing ghosts of the radium girls haunt us still."NPR Books
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.
List of Key Characters xi
Part 1 Knowledge 1
Part 2 Power 141
Part 3 Justice 279
Author's Note 400
Reading Group Guide 409
Picture Acknowledgments 411
Select Bibliography 461
About the Author 480
British ghostwriter Moore traces the lives of more than a dozen American women who were employed as luminous watch-dial painters as early as 1917. She tells how these women, some barely in their 20s, were enchanted by high pay and the allure of the paint’s luminescent substance: radium. Carefully researched, the work will stun readers with its descriptions of the glittering artisans who, oblivious to health dangers, twirled camel-hair brushes to fine points using their mouths, a technique called lip-pointing. By the end of 1918, one out of six American soldiers owned a luminous watch, but the women had begun losing their teeth and entire pieces of their jaws. Moore describes the gruesome effects of radiation exposure on these women’s bodies, and she spares nothing in relaying the intense emotional suffering of their friends and families during subsequent medical investigations and court battles. In giving voice to so many victims, Moore overburdens the story line, which culminates with a 1938 headline trial during which a former employee of the Radium Dial Company collapsed on the stand and had to testify from bed. Moore details what was a “ground-breaking, law-changing, and life-saving accomplishment” for worker’s rights; it lends an emotionally charged ending to a long, sad book. (May)
"Radium Girls spares us nothing of their suffering; though at times the foreshadowing reads more like a true-crime story, Moore is intent on making the reader viscerally understand the pain in which these young women were living, and through which they had to fight in order to get their problems recognized...The story of real women at the mercy of businesses who see them only as a potential risk to the bottom line is haunting precisely because of how little has changed; the glowing ghosts of the radium girls haunt us still." - NPR Books
"A perfect blend of the historical, the scientific, and the personal, this richly detailed book sheds a whole new light on this unique element and the role it played in changing workers' rights. The Radium Girls makes it impossible for you to ignore these women's incredible stories, and proves why, now more than ever, we can't afford to ignore science, either." - Bustle
"This timely book celebrates the strength of a group of women, whose determination to fight improved both labor laws and scientific knowledge of radium poisoning. Written in a highly readable, narrative style, Moore's chronicle of these inspirational women's lives is sure to provoke discussion-and outrage-in book groups." - Booklist-STARRED review
"Moore's well-researched narrative is written with clarity and a sympathetic voice that brings these figures and their struggles to life...a must-read for anyone interested in American and women's history, as well as topics of law, health, and industrial safety." - STARRED Library Journal
"Carefully researched, the work will stun readers with its descriptions of the glittering artisans who, oblivious to health dangers, twirled camel-hair brushes to fine points using their mouths, a technique called lip-pointing...Moore details what was a 'ground-breaking, law-changing, and life-saving accomplishment' for worker's rights." - Publishers Weekly
"Like Da a Sobel's The Glass Universe and Margot Lee Shetterly's Hidden Figures, Kate Moore's The Radium Girls tells the story of a cohort of women who made history by entering the workforce at the dawn of a new scientific era. But the young women--many of them just teenagers--who learned the skill of painting glow-in-the-dark numbers on clock faces and aeronautical gauges early in the twentieth century paid a stiff price for their part in this breakthrough involving the deadly element, radium. Moore sheds new light on a dark chapter in American labor history; the "Radium Girls," martyrs to an unholy alliance of commerce and science, live again in her telling" - Megan Marshall, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Margaret Fuller: A New American Life and Elizabeth Bishop: A Miracle for Breakfast
"Kate Moore vividly depicts the female factory workers whose courage led to a revolution in industrial safety standards. In describing their heart wrenching struggles and bittersweet triumphs, Moore delivers an intimate portrait of these pioneers. Uplifting and beautifully written, The Radium Girls is a tribute to the strength of women everywhere." - Nathalia Holt, New York Timesbestselling author of Rise of the Rocket Girls: The Women Who Propelled Us From Missiles to the Moon to Mars
"Kate Moore's gripping narrative about the betrayal of the radium girls-gracefully told and exhaustively researched-makes this a nonfiction classic. I particularly admire Moore's compassion for her subjects and her story-telling prowess, which brings alive a shameful era in America's industrial history." - Rinker Buck, author of The Oregon Trail: A New American Journey and Flight of Passage
"...[A] fascinating social history one that significantly reflects on the class and gender of those involved [is] Catherine Cookson meets Mad Men...The importance of the brave and blighted dial-painters cannot be overstated." - Sunday Times
"Kate Moore . . . writes with a sense of drama that carries one through the serpentine twists and turns of this tragic but ultimately uplifting story. She sees the trees for the wood: always at the center of her narrative are the individual dial painters, so the list of their names at the start of the book becomes a register of familiar, endearing ghosts." - Spectator
"In this thrilling and carefully crafted book, Kate Moore tells the shocking story of how early 20th-century corporate and legal America set about silencing dozens of working-class women who had been systematically poisoned by radiation ... Moore [writes] so lyrically ... FIVE STARS" - Mail on Sunday
"Aheartfelt...history." - Sunday Telegraph
"Moore's harrowing but humane story describes the struggle of a few brave women who took their case to court in a fight for justice that is still resonant today" - Saga
"Radium Girls was a wonderful and sad read about amazingly brave women.Kate Moore tells their incredible true story of tragedy and bravery in the face of corporate greed. We all should know the stories of these women who suffered through radium poisoning and refused to be silenced. This isn't just an important part of history, but a page turner that will leave you heartbroken and emboldened. It is a must read." - Rachel Ignotofsky, author of Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World
"Radium Girls is a shocking, heartbreaking story of corporate greed and denial, and the strength of the human spirit in face of it.To read it is to honor these women who unwittingly sacrificed their lives but whose courage to stand up and be heard speaks to us from the grave.It is a tale for our times." - Peter Stark, author of Astoria: John Jacob Astor and Thomas Jefferson's Lost Pacific Empire: A Story of Wealth, Ambition, and Survival
"Written with the taut pacing of a novel, Kate Moore's The Radium Girls tells the horrifying true story of the young women who worked in radium dial factories in the 1920s and '30s...Their incredible story, beautifully told by Kate Moore, is sure to incite equal parts compassion and horror in the reader.
" - BookPageFrom the Publisher
★ 02/15/2017Library Journal
Moore (Roses Are Red…) details the tragic stories of dozens of young women employed as dial painters during World War I. Often the daughters of immigrants, these women were lured to these prestigious and well-paying jobs unaware of the dangers of the radioactive paint present in their workplace—which caused their bodies and clothes to glow, even outside of work. With America's entry into World War I, demand for painted dials and painters skyrocketed. Soon, many employees suffered aching teeth and jaws, sore joints, and sarcomas. As their ailments worsened, many sought answers from their employers. They were met with denials and misinformation even as evidence mounted that radium poisoned these women. After nearly 20 years, several trials, and thousands of dollars in doctor and attorney fees, the women won a small measure of justice, but for some, it was too late. Moore's well-researched narrative is written with clarity and a sympathetic voice that brings these figures and their struggles to life. VERDICT A must-read for anyone interested in American and women's history, as well as topics of law, health, and industrial safety.—Chad E. Statler, Lakeland Comm. Coll., Kirtland, OH