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Book Review: The Radium Girls

By Jillian Gately

Have you ever read a book so good you just can’t put it down? You catch yourself thinking about it in class, and you stay up late to finish just one more chapter. We all know that feeling, but finding that right book can be hard, frustrating even, and with streaming services giving us instant availability to the content we want, it’s easy to give up on finding a book and just watch TV instead.

Here’s where I come in. I, a self-proclaimed book nerd, will generate your personal book recommendations weekly, and this week I’m going to tell you about the craziest story you’ve never heard of.

The novel Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women, by Kate Moore is one of the craziest pieces of non-fiction I’ve ever read. This book is jam-packed full of crazy medical mysteries, massive corporate and governmental coverups, and major girl power. If this sounds like your thing, read on.

Without giving any spoilers away, here is a quick synopsis of the story. The novel tells the story of the young women who worked in radium dial factories in the early 19th century. Radium was becoming a major trend because of its intoxicating green glow. People wanted to radium everything. These women specifically, painted radium onto the clock and watch dials using very thin brushes. They were told to use their mouths to wet and point their paintbrushes each time they dipped their brush in the radium paint. They were slowly ingesting radium every single day. The young women were highly sought after; they made excellent money for a factory worker and they were extremely popular socially because they literally glowed.

However, this all came to an end when they started mysteriously getting sick. One by one the women got sicker and sicker with medical conditions doctors had previously not seen before. As the women start to suspect their occupations had to do with their illness, they stood together against the companies refusing responsibility.

This story is so crazy I can’t believe it’s true, and I can’t believe it isn’t a part of history we talk more about. While the corporate conspiracies and weird medical conditions are intriguing, the real core of the book is the way these strong women came together to make a change.

Happy Reading!

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Writers of the Boston University chapter of Her Campus.
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