mercoledì, aprile 26, 2017

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

The Radium Girls  The Dark Story of America's Shining Women written by Kate Moore will be published this next May 2 by Sourcebooks.

I didn't have doubts: it's a masterpiece.

A masterpiece of humanity, comprehension, love, understanding, and a great reportage.

A book with a perfect, fluid, narrative historic reconstruction of what happened to the "radium girls" and where respect for the victims it's at the first place.

It's a book very readable, a serious, passionate book of what happened along the way and during the decades at many of these girls.

A book, The Radium Girls where these girls are back in life, thanks to  the humanity expressed by Kate Moore in writing this book.

You can see the various girls of the society of Radium Dial in Newark and Ottawa smiling and laughing, happy and satisfied of their life,  you can look at their life in motion, their desire of a good life for themselves still very young and their loved ones.
You can see them wearing beautiful dresses and hats, sunny and beautiful.

They were after all the "Shining Girls." At Ottawa Illinois these girls for joke, when they had some free time loved to add the potion of radium and other substance they used during their work in their eyes, mouth, eyelashes, then they rushed in the darkroom and oh: they were beautifully shining!

A basket of life, dreams and desires to realize for all of them.
Life was all a smile and life was very good to them.

After all they were the dial painters of an important society and their work very well paid. They could buy with their pay whatever they wanted because what they earned was a lot and a lot of money for sure and sometimes the pay much superior at the one received by their parents.

Kate Moore visited all the places in the USA where the girls involved in this history, lived firstly and worked later and she talked with the relatives of the so-called "Radium Girls."

She told that while she wrote this book she put all the pictures of these girls close to her and I don't doubt a second that there was also their guidance behind a beautiful book like this one. A whisper from the other world.
A book helped by good spirits will always be a masterpiece because the force who guide the author is not just human.

I didn't know anything of this story.

I have always loved fluorescent objects and since now I still had in my bedroom some fluorescent rosaries and other luminous objects. I don't love darkness. While I was reading this book I thought that it was better to remove everything from the bedroom! throwing away these objects.

You mustn't think that this one will just be the story of these girls, this one without any doubt can be considered also a narrative historic book according to my point of view and it would be crucially important that everyone would read it by because of  the importance of the damage caused by radiations and radioactivity.
These facts should be known by everyone.
Maybe with the time we have forgotten but we mustn't never forget.

The story starts in 1917 in Newark but ends up in recent times.

Pierre and Marie Curie discovered radium in 1898. It appeared more than clear that this substance was great for treating cancer internally. Radiotherapy is called like it for this reason.
Curie remarked that the external use was toxic and burned the skin.

Radium started to be drunk, radium became a sort of magical potion. Unbelievable but true.

The story starts when Katherine Schaub starts to work at the Radium Luminous Materials Corporation based on Third Street, Newark New Jersey.

The girls working in that society were 70 before the first world war conflict but during the war the number tripled and there was space for everyone. Cousins, friends, sisters.
There was of course great joy and happiness although during the war girls worked under pressure.
Picnics were often organized and in general all the girls were very social.
Radium was  the "wonder drug" to everyone.

Grace, Irene, Mollie, Ella, Albina, Edna, Katherine, some of the name of the protagonists of this story.

A story of "Lip-Dip-Paint."

The girls while they were not painting put the brush in their mouth all the time. It was a custom, a habit. Their bosses told them to do that.

During the war the 95% of radium painted on military dials.

The first one to fall sick was Hazel although slowly most of the girls started to be very sick.

It was a problems of tooth at first.

A mysterious illness destroyed, dismantled, better, their mouth involving later their throat as well.

The illness started from the tooth, they fell with great simplicity, and we speak of very young girls of 20 years! giving at first  ulcerative problems, pus.

Then the illness penetrated in profundity demolishing all the rest of the mouth's bones.

A dentist "rceived" the jaw of one of these girls in his hands while he was exploring her mouth. It simply fell in his hands.

It was a horrible illness with a lot of sufferance and a devastating death for all of them.

I picked up some pictures to add at this review and well I looked for case at a pic of a girl dead for the devastation of radium. It was terrible to see but important.

At first dentists, physicians, and doctors excluded the radium; the first girl dead was diagnosed with syphilis but who knew her, knew that it couldn't be possible.

Later dentists and physicians tried to discover if this one wasn't a case of phosphorus poisoning considering that the girls worked in a society where they managed some chemical substances. Radium couldn't never be taken in consideration because it was an amazing new substance.

Many more Radium Girls fell sick and some of these ones became, when the stadium of the illness profound, unrecognizable.

At the end a family of one of these girls preferred to avoid the vision of the corpse to friends and relatives after the death.

At the same time in Ottawa, Illinois a town of 10.000 people more or less all catholic, a town plenty of churches, old habits, good people, a town that no one could reach with great simplicity the radium company decide to open a new radium society at the beginning of 1920s.
There was of course a lot of excitement between the female young population.

Work was very well paid and a lot of them joined the company with the same procedure adopted by their colleagues of Newark: let's: "Lip-Dip-Paint."

In Newark it was the chaos, ignored by the cheerful and happy girls of Ottawa, Illinois. At the beginning, they thought of a great life: for sure this one was the sign of a great present and a better future.

It was still unknown in fact the turmoil that was going on in Newark, and the desperation of dentists and doctors unable to cure with the known therapies these girls.

Doctors simply hadn't never seen a devastation like this one and although they tried to stop this illness with all their knowledge and best medicines, no one could diminish the process of demolishing of the the mouth of these girls.

Their hair became snow-white, they became very anemic, weak.
If the illness didn't start with tooth problems these girls started to limp.

There is also to add something else: we are in the USA and there wasn't public health assistance so it means that slowly slowly once these girls fell ill it was clear that they needed intensive cure ergo a lot of money  spent for a lot of cures.

One of them operated at the mouth 25 times!!! and the company at first didn't want to give them any buck because they didn't recognize any responsibility for what was going on, although with the time they introduced periodical controls and exams for the workers, and although the workers didn't never know the results of these tests.

All the money spent, the girls, proud, constricted to ask money to their families.

A boyfriend for helping his girlfriend married her because in this way she would have accepted his money.

Being this one an unknown illness sometimes doctors didn't want to be paid because of course to them these girls were subject of study but of course not all the times.

At the end one of these girl afforded to New York City where a famous doctor mr. Blum understood without too much difficulty that this one was a radioactive intoxication.

Mr Blum without any kind of shyness wrote to the radium company asking for money for curing the girl. The request was rejected, but later Marguerite found an attorney and filed suit against the United States Radium Corporation for 75.000 dollars one million of modern dollar.
Marguerite opened the road at a sort of "class action" and the case started to be known slowly also in the little and pacific town of Ottawa where the first symptoms of this illness started to appear in the girls like  panic.
The luckiest ones, the ones who didn't die immediately were later affected by leukemia, bone cancer and suffered severe cases of osteoporosis.

As wrote Kate Moore the legacy of the radium girls didn't just simply set different standards at work giving also a great contribute to science and medicine, but their legacy was also left in terms of legislation.

More than 100 of these girls were later exhumed and many bodies donated to the science for experiment. In general bones and tissues of the corpses of these girls reduced in ashes and then analyzed. The girls were radioactive.

The Radium Girls without to want to be that, and this is very sad because the process passed through their devastating death and their fight for recognizing that in that society something was terribly wrong,  were real, real fighters for a good, honest and safe workplace.
Dignity and health at work should always be at the first place.
That work that should have brought food on their table, joy, happy marriages, children, happy times, meant to them death. Only death and sufferance.

Work shouldn't kill anyone.

In more modern times the signs of their fight for obtaining justice recognized also after the second world war.

The USA bombarded with two atomic bombs Hiroshima and Nagasaki after the Pearl Harbor attack and the devastation of the signs left behind terrible.

President Kennedy signed so the international Limited Test Ban Treaty which prohibited atomic tests above ground, underwater and in open space.

The danger of radiations ad radioactivity recognized by everyone.

On Sept 2 2011 the city of Ottawa   unveiled a statue dedicated at the Radium Girl and the governor of Illinois proclaimed that day the day of the Radium Girl.

This book is tremendously beauty also during the most difficult parts, when the girls start to be sick, when they start their crucifixion in terms of visits, hospitals, because told with true love, real passion, devotion for this story. You can visualize and see the various dentists and doctors at work. You can see their impotence and their trouble, like also their determination for trying to discover something more.

It was a battle.
The battle of the girls for trying to survive, the battle of the doctors and physician for trying to curing these girls, the sufferance of the relatives.

It's a story told with great heart and impact and I know that you will love it so badly.

These radium girls  courageous.

The courage to find an answer and where no possible the courage to change, the courage of sufferance and obstinacy for obtaining that dignity that the company didn't want to recognize.

The courage to fight against giant and silence.
Some of them complained that something wrong was going on when still in health but no one listened to them because that society was giving work at so many people.

Some of these girls tried to change work but of course once radioactivity is in the body there is nothing to do.

You will discover wonderful characters also in terms of doctors and physicians. These people as said changed the course of history.

I want to remember Von Sochocky one of the boss of the radium society, also dead because of radium.
Fired from the company decided to help with all himself these girls doctors and dentists, still in trouble and desperate for trying to find a proper cure at this strange horrible illness revealing the secret formula used by the radium girls at work but not only: Von Sochocky developed also the first tests for seeing if the girls were radioactive opening so the road to radioactive future exams.

Highly highly recommended to everyone!


I thank so much NetGalley and Sourcebooks for this wonderful and so wanted book!



Anna Maria Polidori

Photo credits: Pics from the website of the city of Ottawa and if I remember well the working Radium Girl's pic from the Chicago Tribune.

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