A number of bright-eyed young women in the early 1920s, called Radium Girls, worked in well-paid watch-face painting factories, ingesting a deadly radium paint that would later deteriorate their bodies from the inside out.
I think somewhere in the process of researching and writing The Radium Girls, the author fell in love with her subjects, these radium girls who met such a sad fate.
No, not romantic love, silly.
The kind of love that comes with kinship. She stepped into the place of the mother, the sister, the daughter, the friend of these girls. She saw their optimism for a better life, and wanted badly for them to achieve it.
Reading the book, I fell in love, too.
I knew what was going to happen. I knew these girls were doomed, but my disappointment when they fell ill was palpable anyway.
Their story was sensationalistic, taking headline honors in many newspapers. The press dubbed them the Living Dead.
And that’s what they were. Their bodies literally crumbled from the inside out. Their bones rotted, their teeth, their jaws…it’s heartbreaking to read what these girls and their families went through and the physical agony they endured.
Kate Moore thoroughly recounts their stories, painting them in a way that brings the radium girls back to life.
I can see the girls in my mind, joking and laughing, bending over their work in concentration, walking through town in their new dresses, inviting their sisters to join them at the great new job they’ve found.
Many thanks to NetGalley for providing an advance copy of this book to me in exchange for an honest review.