The Radium Girls is a real life story about the women who painted luminous numbers on watch dials. The story begins in a New Jersey factory and the excitement of the women working there. The women were paid per dial painted so efficiency was important. They were shown that the easiest way to keep their brushes pointed was to “lip” the tip. At the time radium was the latest fad, people were drinking it in tonics and taking it in pill form. There wasn’t any harm in sticking the paint brush in their mouths hundreds of times a week.
Sadly, the women who worked at the factories in New Jersey, Illinois, and Connecticut soon found out that radium was not safe at all. The US Radium Corporation, originally the Radium Luminous Material Corporation, fought dirty to ensure that they didn’t have to pay restitution to any of the women working there. Radium poisoning wasn’t listed as an occupational disease therefore the women’s illnesses weren’t the company’s fault. They paid doctors to examine the sick women who then lied about their health, even going so far as telling one women she was healthier than he was though he knew she had radium poisoning. One women’s cause of death was listed as syphilis in an effort to discredit her; this was later proven false when they exhumed her body.
The Radium Girls sheds light on the inequity between men and women’s rights as well as the abuses suffered by employees of large corporations. It is a tragedy that many have never heard of. I highly recommend picking up a copy to learn about what happened to “America’s Shining Women”.