Book Review: The Radium Girls

The Radium GirlsTitle: The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women

Author: Kate Moore

Series: none

Edition: e-book borrowed from my library

Blurb: 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.

Written with a sparkling voice and breakneck pace, The Radium Girls fully illuminates the inspiring young women exposed to the “wonder” substance of radium, and their awe-inspiring strength in the face of almost impossible circumstances. Their courage and tenacity led to life-changing regulations, research into nuclear bombing, and ultimately saved hundreds of thousands of lives…

Review: First and foremost, I will say that this is NOT the type of book I usually read. I picked this up to read along with the Seasonal Reading Challenge’s book picks for Fall. They had three books to choose from. This was the only one my library had available immediately. And I have to say, I am very glad that I did. This is a story that will stick with me for a long time.

Kate Moore paints a picture of these women, some of them very young girls when they started working in the factories, that is haunting and inspiring. Her attention to detail and the amount of research that went into telling this story is unbelievable. You really get to know these women and feel a punch in the gut at their hardships and struggles. They are much stronger than I ever will be, knowing that their fight would probably not help them in the long run, but would help other workers facing similar fights in the future.

The details of their illnesses are gruesome and not for the faint at heart. It was very hard to read at times, but it was also very hard to put down. It’s a fairly long book, almost 500 pages, but it reads very quickly. Also, if your blood isn’t boiling with rage at the heads of these companies willfully denying their fault in any of these womens’ health problems, then I don’t think we can be friends. It is abominable what they did, especially since they knew that what they were doing was dangerous, but getting that sweet, sweet money was more important.

GoodReads rating: 5 stars. This is a book everyone should read.


Categories: Books I've Read

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4 replies

  1. Oh! I just listened to an interesting podcast about the Radium Girls on Stuff You Missed in History Class. Seems like an interesting read!


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