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Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Book Review: Radium Girls by Kate Moore

radium girls
Radium Girls
by Kate Moore
ARC, e-Book, 496 pages
April 18, 2017
★★★★ ½☆
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Genre: Non-Fiction

Source: Received via Netgalley for review

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.

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...

As soon as I saw Radium Girls up on the Netgalley platform I knew I NEEDED to read it. While I had never done extensive reading on these girls I had heard of them in passing while reading various other non-fiction works, especially when taking a class on social reform and women’s rights. However, after having received the book, life happened and like so many other things, it quite literally was shelved for awhile. But I still knew I WANTED to read this. So when a weekend arrived where I wasn’t feeling great and was going to be spending my time on the couch, it was time, finally, to pick up the book! And I absolutely devoured the pages in the course of the weekend!

What immediately caught my attention in this book was the girls themselves. The author doesn’t focus on just one of two key players, but quite the handful of women who endured a lot at the expense of radium. These women were fleshed out and their reasons for working at the various radium dial painting factories and the effects of the radium on their lives and bodies were detailed in full. Each woman had different reasons and different ailments and this book gave the full picture. Not something you want to be reading while eating, it can be gross at times as the author pulls no punches, but it was very appreciated because I could truly identify with these women and the pain they endured even while fighting their battle legally.

Even the companies themselves, the author dug under the covers and we are treated to what they knew and the lengths they went to in order to hide what they knew about the effects of the radium. What shocked me was how these women underwent exams by the company doctors, but were not given access to the results and the company men already knew they were suffering from radium’s effects early on.

I also appreciated the legal process that the author took us through as the women struggled to find anyone that would be willing to go up against the industry or assist them with their case. These were women who suffered some horrible workplace injustices, but at the time the jobs they were doing were considered to be top of the heap and THE jobs to be had, which made for considerable backlash. This reminded me to some extent of some of the garment workers in NYC, how those jobs were better than many others that women could have and there was high competition for the jobs, and the only way that their workplace situations were improved was unfortunately through a major fire that killed many women (at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory).

Oh and let me not forget to mention, that although this is a non-fiction book, it certainly doesn’t read like one. While the material might be heavy in concept, the writing style is fluid and reads more like a novel, seamlessly moving from one thing to the next. An excellent book that I would highly recommend.

Reviews of this book by other bloggers:

Buy the Book: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | RJ Julia

Also by Kate Moore:

felix the railway cat
Felix the Railway Cat

Find Kate Moore:
Website | Twitter

Copyright © 2018 by The Maiden’s Court


  1. I loved this book! I've since been shoving it into the hands of every library patron who shows even the slightest interest in nonfiction :)

    1. That's awesome!! It's a book I've been recommending too.

  2. I read this one when it came out last year and loved it. If I had to pick a favorite of 2017, I'm sure this would be it! My review is here if you care to read it.

    1. Thanks for the link! I hate that I waited so long to read it.

  3. I'd also heard about these women in passing and really enjoyed the chance to learn more about there story in such an engagingly written book. It led to some great book club discussion too :)

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