I would like to thank Netgalley Kate Moore and Source Books for allowing me an advanced copy of this book for my unbiased review. I saw this and thought “this looks a bit different” . The blurb sounded intriguing. I did not realise what i was letting myself in for. That greed and power comes before health and safety. Thousands of women with radium, this book relates to just 34 of them.
Marie and Pierre Curie discovered Radium in 1898. A new element.
1917 Katherine Schaub went to work in the watch dial factory “Radium Luminous Materials Corporation” in Newark, New Jersey. The substance was used to paint onto watch dials so they glowed in the dark. The girls were using brushes thet they made onto a point by placing them in their mouths, then dipping into the radium paint and then painted the dials. A process known as Lip, Dip, Paint.
At this point any danger from radium was unknown, in fact it was heralded as “the greatest find in history” and was marketed as a cure all from pills and powders to drinks, though most of these didn’t contain radium. It was a household name and nobody thought there was a risk. The girls working at the factory glowed in the dark as the powdery substance was ever present in the air, it was on their clothes, in their hair, they even painted on their nails and used it as make up so that they glowed in the dark. They would eat their luch at the table they worked at, they could never wash the powder from their bodies completely. It bcame part of them, Young girls wanted to work at the factory, it was “the” job to be in as it paid well.
Gradually the some of the girls started to get aches and pains, they had problems with their teeth and gums. When a tooth was removed because of pain, the resulting hole didn’t heal, and in fact got worse and travelled through the mouth, more teeth were becoming loose. It got so bad that in some cases the girls actually lost some of ther jaw bones as they crumbled or came out in pieces while they ate. Dentists were at a loss and no connections were made. Doctors became confused when girls came in complaining of painful backs, hips knees or ankles. Girls had to deal with sarcomas, amputations, miscarriages and all were in horrific pain. They all had this in common, radium had settled in their bones and weakening them, but again no connections were made. Things then started to get more severe as some of the girls became immobile and immaciated, they couldn’t walk without pain or eat without pain. Death occured and the cause of death was attributed to other causes, it couldn’t possibly be radium. In fact it was, but because this was a new element there was no documented evidence to show any side effects. New intruments and ways of thinking had to come into to play before people began to realise that it was radium that was poisoning and killing the girls.
This book has brought me to tears so many times while reading it. This is one of the most emotional and humbling books i have come across. The author mentions that (she) “simply hope(s) that (she) has done them justice. In my opinion she has certainly done this and surpassed it. It is a story that has shocked me, and even now i am struggling to put into words the impact it has had on me. I got caught up immediatley in it. Kate Moore has told the stories of those involved in a very simple but articulate way. I couldn’t stop reading, i had to discover the truth and the outcome.