Review: The Radium Girls by Kate Moore



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

Author: Kate Moore

Published: 2 May 2017

Publisher: Sourcebooks

Source: Netgalley

Rating: 5/5


Goodreads synopsis

The incredible true story of the young women exposed to the “wonder” substance of radium and their brave struggle for justice…

As World War I raged across the globe, hundreds of young women toiled away at the radium-dial factories, where they painted clock faces with a mysterious new substance called radium. Assured by their bosses that the luminous material was safe, the women themselves shone brightly in the dark, covered from head to toe with the glowing dust. With such a coveted job, these “shining girls” were considered the luckiest alive—until they began to fall mysteriously ill. As the fatal poison of the radium took hold, they found themselves embroiled in one of America’s biggest scandals and a groundbreaking battle for workers’ rights.

A rich, historical narrative written in a sparkling voice, The Radium Girls is the first book that fully explores the strength of extraordinary women in the face of almost impossible circumstances and the astonishing legacy they left behind.


This book was educational for me because I legit had no clue regarding the Radium girls. Heck, I didn’t even know they existed till this book! Worse of all, I never realized that people back in the 20th century thought Radium was this miracle substance able to cure anything from a toothache to cancer. I was horrified, legitimately H-O-R-R-I-F-I-E-D! The only thing that went through my mind reading the first few pages before the plot delved into the USRC (United States Radium Corporation) workers was, “Oh no. Please no. God no. Radium is radioactive!!! It will kill you! Please don’t even go near it!”. I had to put the book down a few times because the emotions I was feeling was too intense and when we started going into the plot regarding the female workers in USRC, my already unstable emotions plummeted straight to the 7th layer of Hell.

I can’t go into much detail for this review because if I do it will become a whole novel in itself but yeah like I said my emotions completely gave up fighting and fell into the pits of emotional hell because of what these brave young women had to go through. Through their pain, through people disbelieving them because they were women, through their fight for justice. The whole world was against them and I mean the whole world. The corporation they worked for threw them under the bus to the judges and scientists who stripped them of their credibility and to the people who sought to take advantage of them. If it were not because of their family members and the select few lawyers and doctors who believed them they would have been fighting this fight completely alone having no one else but themselves.

What made me shed tears was when the author described every single thing that the radium poisoning did to them. These young women first lost their teeth which then lead to them losing their jaw bone and then their bones were so fragile anything and everything could lead to breakage. One family member said to the author that her aunt was in so much pain that she didn’t even have energy to cry out. Can you imagine the amount of physical pain they went through and this is not even mental pain. These were young ladies who had their whole life ahead of them Some were planning to get married, some were already married and were planning for children, some were already pregnant and to know this can never be and worse of all knowing full well you will die a painful death. Knowing your days are numbered, that made me cry because it was all so heartbreaking knowing that nobody can help them and these girls know it too. At least with cancer, you had a chance no matter how small you still had a fighting chance but these girls with radiation poisoning there was no chance.

Their fight during the trial, reading it was like having my already broken heart being bulldozed, stabbed and doused with acid, one part of the fight against Radiant Dial Corporation that just pissed me off was when the company kept postponing the trial in hopes that the women would either be too sick to fight or had died and there would be no one left. These corporations (both USRC and Radiant Dial) had hearts of stone. They were ruthless and heartless especially Radiant Dial Corporation, at least with USRC they didn’t blatantly lie to their workers. They didn’t make their workers take radium tests and conceal the result. I hope these people rot in hell I tell you. I mean seriously, it has been 100 years-ish and their bones ARE STILL RADIOACTIVE! and mind you the half life of Radium is 1600 years. That is right, their bones and the surrounding areas of their graves will still be radioactive for the next 1500 years. This should be enough to piss one off in how could these people who knew the truth be so cruel they are like Satan pretending to be human beings.

Okay, emotions aside. I really loved how the author wrote the book from the perspective of the women involved because it allows me as a reader to feel a whole range of emotions from utter sadness and despair to just full-blown anger at how these women were treated, how they were branded as liars just because of their sex and lastly to bittersweet happiness that their pain, their fight allowed the US Labor Law to be changed to help other future workers work in a safe environment.

This book was just pure awesomeness because it touches upon sexism in the workplace, corruption and greed in corporations that allowed them to turn a blind eye to whatever that happened as long as money was still trickling in, the unconditional love that the family members and spouses had for these women who were suffering from radiation poisoning. It also makes you think of the implication regarding radium exposure not only to the people living in the area but also the environment

I highly recommend it and for once I will endeavor to buy this book once it is out at my local bookstore. I rarely buy any of the books I read through Netgalley unless it is so good that I MUST have a physical copy and this book is one of those books.

I feel like my review is incompetent and doesn’t cover much of what I want to say and if it did it the review will be never ending so I will also link a few reviews and articles that I feel shed more light to feels I feel regarding this issue.

The Radium Girls: Interview with Kate Moore by Avalinah’s Books

Why were they called The Girls With Radioactive Bones? by Avalinah’s Books

‘Radium Girls’ Remembered for Role in Shaping US Labor Law

Skin glowing from radium, ‘ghost girls’ died for a greater cause

*The book was kindly provided by the publisher via Netgalley for an honest review