The Radium Girls (Paperback)
The Dark Story of America's Shining Women
Sourcebooks, 9781492650959, 496pp.
Publication Date: March 6, 2018
May 2017 Indie Next List
— Heather Herbaugh, Mitzi's Books, Rapid City, SD
View the List
Summer 2018 Reading Group Indie Next List
— Maggie Henriksen, Saturn Booksellers, Gaylord, MI
View the List
A New York Times, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, and Amazon Charts Bestseller
"the glowing ghosts of the radium girls haunt us still."--NPR Books
For fans of Hidden Figures, comes the incredible true story of the women heroes who were exposed to radium in factories across the U.S. in the early 20th century, and their brave and groundbreaking battle to strengthen workers' rights, even as the fatal poison claimed their own lives...
The Curies' newly discovered element of radium makes gleaming headlines across the nation as the fresh face of beauty and wonder drug of the medical community. From body lotion to tonic water, the popular new element shines bright in the otherwise dark years of the First World War.
Meanwhile, hundreds of girls toil amidst the glowing dust of the radium-dial factories. The glittering chemical covers their bodies from head to toe; they light up the night like industrious fireflies. With such a coveted job, these "shining girls" are the luckiest alive -- until they begin to fall mysteriously ill.
But the factories that once offered golden opportunities are now ignoring all claims of the gruesome side effects, and the women's cries of corruption. And as the fatal poison of the radium takes hold, the brave shining girls find themselves embroiled in one of the biggest scandals of America's early 20th century, and in a groundbreaking battle for workers' rights that will echo for centuries to come.
Written with a sparkling voice and breakneck pace, The Radium Girls fully illuminates the inspiring young women exposed to the "wonder" substance of radium, and their awe-inspiring strength in the face of almost impossible circumstances. Their courage and tenacity led to life-changing regulations, research into nuclear bombing, and ultimately saved hundreds of thousands of lives...
Conversation Starters from ReadingGroupChoices.com
1. The Radium Girls is filled with both triumph and tragedy. Which part of the story affected you the most, and why?
2. Is there a figure in The Radium Girls that resonates more strongly with you than others? If so, what part of their story or character stood out?
3. Even after radium was proved poisonous, and the illness verified as work-related, the radium companies stood fast by their convictions. Why do you believe they were so resilient, and can you imagine modern companies behaving with such similar ruthlessness?
4. How do you believe the radium companies, and the press, would have reacted differently to the scandal had the workers been male? Considering the time period, how did their gender help and hinder their case?
5. How do you think today’s world would be different had The Radium Girls not fought back against the radium companies?
6. It takes over 1,500 years for the effects of radium to wear off. This means that the bodies of the women and parts of the towns in which they worked remain poisonous to this day. Despite the harrowing implications, why do you feel this story hasn’t been widely explored?
7. The Radium Girls is told mostly through the eyes of the radium-dial workers, their families, and friends; however, previous research never focused on their personal journeys. How did it change your appreciation of or engagement with the story to know the smaller, personal details of the girls’ lives? Is there another historical event where you’ve noticed women being pushed to the sidelines?
8. Although radium can be seen as an evil entity in the book, it’s also been used for the greater good. Explore how radium has changed the world in a positive way. Do you feel it was worth the sacrifice?
9. Besides radium, what other world-altering discoveries can you think of that both led to advancement, and also tragedy?
10. How were you inspired by the strength of the “shining girls”, and how can you carry that onwards to incite change in your own life?