Year 13, Book 18

18. The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women by Kate Moore

Radium was once viewed as a miracle substance that could promote health and was used in paint on dials because of its luminous properties. Young girls were employed to paint these dials, but then they started experiencing mysterious illnesses sometimes years after they had left their employment.

Radium Girls is the true story of the girls working at radium dial companies in New Jersey and Illinois who fell ill due to their work with radium leading to their fight to uncover the truth about what had caused their sicknesses and get the companies trying to hide it to reveal what they knew about the dangers of working with radium and compensate all the women who worked there.

It’s a harrowing tale of women experiencing insane levels of pain and suffering while putting in the fight of their lives against companies who are more worried about their bottom line than their employees. The women were inspiring and their fight led to many regulations we have today, but reading the book was somewhat disheartening because the cruelty of capitalism is a tale as old as time and things we still see over and over again today.

The book was also of special interest to me because one of the companies featured in the book was based in Ottawa, Illinois a small town about 90 miles outside of Chicago where most of my father’s family is from. I had no idea about this history in this little town I’ve been to any number of times in my life and I still have a lot of family.

I give it a 9 out of 10.

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