Sunday, April 30, 2017

The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America's Shining Women by Kate Moore book thoughts

Title: The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America's Shining Women
Series: Standalone
Author: Kate Moore
Published Date: May 2nd, 2017
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Source: Netgalley
# of Pages: 496
Genre: Non-Fiction
Read: April 2017

Goodreads Synopsis

"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..."

Rating: 5/5 Stars

Check it out on Goodreads!

Some Quotes

"In those three short weeks, however, Kjaer had reached a conclusion. Radium, he determined, was dangerous. It was just that nobody told the girls..."

"For years the girls had been searching for a diagnosis, for someone to tell them what was wrong. Once they had that, they believed faithfully, then the doctors would be able to cure them. But radium poisoning, Martland now knew, was utterly incurable."

"For she now recalled all too well a fleeting moment in her memory that sealed the company's guilt. "Do not do that," Sabin von Sochocky had once said to her. "You will get sick." Seven years she was in Newwark City Hospital. Now she realized: von Sochocky had known. He had known all along."

"Yet Marguerite had not died quietly: as the first dial-painter to file suit-the first to show it was even possible to fight back against the corporation that killed her-she went out with a roar."

"Edna screamed and fainted. For she knew exactly what her shining bones foretold, shimmering through her skin. She knew that glow. Only one thing on earth could make that glimmer. Radium."

"There were five of them now: five girls crying out for justice; five girls fighting for their cause. Grace, Katherine, Quinta, Albina, and Edna. The newspapers went mad, inventing memorable monikers to define this new quintet. And so, in the summer of 1927, it became official. The Case of the Five Women Doomed to Die"

"Dr. Flinn, who pronounced that his tests showed "there is no radium" in the women; he was convinced, he said, that their health problems were caused by nerves. This was a common response to women's occupational illnesses, which were often first attributed to female hysteria"

"They listened as the New Jersey girls' deaths and disabilities were debated. They listened, as the industry got away with murder. And then they went home."

My Thoughts

I don't know where to begin! It sounded interesting and heart-breaking whenever it was that I heard about it and I saw it on Netgalley, so I got it. And I am so glad I did! It is heart-breaking but oh so important! This tells the stories of "The Shining Women", women who were poisoned by their work with radium and the employers who knew, but didn't care and put profits over their employees.

Kate did her research and it really shows! Talking with the girls families and doing in depth research in order to tell their stories with sensitivity and truth. She brings them alive again in these pages, making you feel so much for them. Yes, they were real people so of course there is that but also the way Kate wrote, it's just amazing and i'm not sure how to describe it. You get to go through their lives with them. Their battles with their declining health and bodies literally breaking while they fought for justice from the company who murdered them. A fight that last a really long time. It took so long for them to even be listened to and figure out what was really going on.

It's a non-fiction book but it reads with the pace of a thriller, it really does. It's easy to read in terms of reading but very hard to read in terms of it's heart-wrenching impact. It's powerful. And those were just *some* of the quotes that I really wanted to share, there are more but I need a limit somewhere.

There are villians here. Real life villians.

The girls were strong though. I had literally heard NOTHING about these girls prior to picking up this book, and it's an extremely important part of history. No one is untouched by it. No one. And I live in NJ, where some of it took place. Not the exact city, or even anywhere near it, but still the same state. This is something that should be in history books. These women weren't just fighting for themselves but for all industrial workers. And ultimately so much more they couldn't have then known. Saying how many people they ultimately saved, you wouldn't believe me. You'll just need to read it.

This true history is downright horrific. The stuff they went through. The fact they were women and treated as second class citizens back almost 100 years ago. The truly inhumane ways the business men refused to tell the truth despite knowing it. The refusal to care, to put profits ahead of people. Of course people still do that now, but at least now there are laws to protect employees from health hazards on the job and to give them rights. You can thank these women for that.

Because of them we now know how bad radioactivity is for humans. They've helped not just workers but science too. Even donating their bodies to science. "Strontium-90, it had been determined, was too dangerous for humanity after all. The ban undoubtedly saved lives and, very possibly, the entire human race."

Despite this happening almost 100 years ago you really feel like you get to know these women. They gave a whole new meaning to the roaring 20s. They roared alright!

The beauty in their story and where it truly shines (pun unintended), is in their strength of character, their faith, how their intense love for their husbands and children inspired them to fight on, even in agony. The plight of Catherine was especially heart-wrenching. How she managed to live for months in her condition, at only 60 pounds, unable to do much of anything, unable to move (they ended up bringing court cases to her home, and even though she couldn't move, and barely could speak, she did and continued fighting), she defied medical logic. She hung on, not for herself, but see the truth come to light. For her husband and children, so at least they'd be ok when she was gone. These women had to fight to make their voices heard, and many were only listened to after their death. Radium has a shelf life of over 1,000 years...their corpses still glow to this day.

I got an early version without photographs as I got it from netgalley. I'm sure the photographs would have made it even more powerful, but even without them it packed a big punch. And yes, I plan on buying the finished version!

Honestly I think this is history everyone should know. It impacted ultimately everyone and still does. If you are normally put off by history or non-fiction, this does not read like a textbook. It reads like fiction in a way and I mean that in a good way. If you are able to get your hands on this book, please do. Learn these women's stories. They deserve to be told and heard, they need to be.

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