I stayed up until sometime after midnight reading this book: The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women by Kate Moore. HOLY WOW!!!!!!!! You seldom find page-turning novels in non-fiction, but I had a hard time putting this book down. This is the kind of book that stays with you. The women in this book, their stories, feel real. These women are our neighbors and our family members.
Kate Moore’s novel is relatively recent. The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women came out last year, April 18, 2017. I picked it up back in December as a Bookbub deal. I vaguely knew the story of the women who worked at Radium Dial. These women painted the faces of the watches and dials used by soldiers during WWI and WWII. They were heroes. And…they were all poisoned by radiation. HUNDREDS of women died and the corporation these ladies worked for denied they were slowly killing their employees. It’s a heart-wrenching story, meticulously researched, with footnotes, and a bibliography nearly as long as the story.
I enjoy a well-written, non-fiction story, but Kate Moore blew me away!!! This story starts in 1901 and ends in 2015. I had no idea we were STILL living with the repercussions of using radium paint TODAY, in modern times. Make sure you read ALL the way past the Epilogue to the Postscript. OMG! The Postscript will haunt me!!! While I’m not usually a fan of Prologues, this one was well-done and exactly what a Prologue SHOULD be, so don’t skip that part either.
For a work of non-fiction, this almost reads like a “who done it” novel. I would HIGHLY recommend this book to ANY reading group. This book would great for teens and older. The descriptions are a little gruesome when we see the effects of radiation poisoning, but the quotes and dialogue used are taken from the women themselves, from diaries, letters, and actual testimonies.
We owe so much to these women, not only for the work they did, but also for their fight to make workplaces safer. Many of these ladies donated their bodies to science and it’s from this research scientist have learned the effects of radiation poisoning.
Thank you so much, Kate Moore, for writing this book!!! (She has a great website at this link if you’d like to learn more about the research that went into this book.)