THE RADIUM GIRLS

The Dark Story of America's Shining Women

Kate Moore

New York Times bestseller
Indie Regional bestseller
Indie Next Pick
LibraryReads Pick

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.

more …

New York Times bestseller
Indie Regional bestseller
Indie Next Pick
LibraryReads Pick

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.

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  • Sourcebooks
  • Hardcover
  • May 2017
  • 496 Pages
  • 9781492649359

Buy the Book

$26.99

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About Kate Moore

Kate Moore is a Sunday Times bestselling author, editor, and ghostwriter. In 2015, she directed a critically acclaimed play about the Radium Girls called These Shining Lives. She lives in the UK.

Author Website

Praise

 

“Current nonfiction obsession! …powerful, disturbing, important history.”New York Times bestselling author Karen Abbott

“Uplifting and beautifully written…a tribute to the strength of women everywhere.”New York Times bestselling author Nathalia Holt

“Gracefully told and exhaustively researched.”New York Times bestselling author Rinker Buck

“The story of real women at the mercy of businesses who see them only as a potential risk to the bottom line is haunting…the glowing ghosts of the radium girls haunts us still.”NPR Books

“A perfect blend of the historical, the scientific, and the personal.”Bustle

Discussion Questions

1. The Radium Girls is filled with both triumph and tragedy. Which part of the story affected you the most, and why?

2. Is there a figure in The Radium Girls that resonates more strongly with you than others? If so, what part of their story or character stood out?

3. Even after radium was proved poisonous, and the illness verified as work-related, the radium companies stood fast by their convictions. Why do you believe they were so resilient, and can you imagine modern companies behaving with such similar ruthlessness?

4. How do you believe the radium companies, and the press, would have reacted differently to the scandal had the workers been male? Considering the time period, how did their gender help and hinder their case?

5. How do you think today’s world would be different had The Radium Girls not fought back against the radium companies?

6. It takes over 1,500 years for the effects of radium to wear off. This means that the bodies of the women and parts of the towns in which they worked remain poisonous to this day. Despite the harrowing implications, why do you feel this story hasn’t been widely explored?

7. The Radium Girls is told mostly through the eyes of the radium-dial workers, their families, and friends; however, previous research never focused on their personal journeys. How did it change your appreciation of or engagement with the story to know the smaller, personal details of the girls’ lives? Is there another historical event where you’ve noticed women being pushed to the sidelines?

8. Although radium can be seen as an evil entity in the book, it’s also been used for the greater good. Explore how radium has changed the world in a positive way. Do you feel it was worth the sacrifice?

9. Besides radium, what other world-altering discoveries can you think of that both led to advancement, and also tragedy?

10. How were you inspired by the strength of the “shining girls”, and how can you carry that onwards to incite change in your own life?

Interviews

Radioactive Clocks and the Women Poisoned by Them

We take for granted how easily we can read the time in darkness. But back in the early 1900s, there was only one way to make a clock glow in the dark—painting the numbers with radium. It was delicate work, and radium dial factories hired young women to do it. All day they would press them between their lips to keep them sharp.

Of course, radium is radioactive. The young women got horribly and gruesomely sick. They began to die. The companies refused to do anything about it. So the young women fought back, in court. Writer Kate Moore tells their story in “The Radium Girls.” She told Anne Strainchamps she could not stop thinking about the girls.

Wanting to hear more about how Radiant Dial’s treatment of these women affected the town itself, PRX producer Anne Strainchamps traveled to Ottawa to hear firsthand what happened to the women and their families in the years that followed.

Listen to this audio essay and interview with author Kate Moore