Wednesday, January 3, 2018

The Radium Girls

So. Ordinarily I don't make New Year's resolutions. But. I'm going to break with tradition and make one. Ready?

My New Year's resolution is to read at least 3 books a month and post a review. I was going to do 4 a month, which would be a book a week, but since I want to be successful I reduced it to 3. Surely I can read 3 books a month, right?

Anyway. To start the year off, I'm reviewing The Radium Girls, which I read on my kindle.


I don't read a lot of non-fiction, and I can't say why I chose this out of all the other non-fiction books. Maybe it was on sale...But regardless of the reason, I'm glad I read it. I new nothing of these poor woman who suffered immeasurably due to the hazards at their work and (big surprise) the greed of their employers.

The Radium Girls is the story of these girls, most of them young, in their teens and early twenties. They worked at the Radium Dial Plant in Orange NJ painting the dials on clocks with luminous paint made with radium powder. As the girls painted these dials, they were taught to wet the brushes with their mouths in order to keep a fine point on the brush, ingesting radium every time they did. They didn't get sick right away; sometimes it would be years later, even after they'd stopped working for the company. And they didn't all get sick. But those that did were almost all doomed to die a very horrible death. The girl's teeth fell out and wouldn't heal, parts of their jaws fell into their mouth (can you imagine???!!!), they developed sarcomas, had miscarriages, and were in constant, awful pain. Because some of the girls became ill after leaving the plant, it took a long time to prove that the radium in the paint was the cause of the girls' illness. And even after it was shown that the radium was the cause, the company continued the same practice of having the girls dip the brushes into the paint and then smooth the brush tips with their mouths.

Many girls died young after long debilitating illnesses. Others were disfigured or lived in pain. One had her arm amputated which likely saved her. The suffering these girls endured was truly horrible. More horrible was the response of the plant and its owners. They lied to their employees even after it was shown that the radium paint was to blame for the girls' illnesses and deaths, they kept secret medical records they refused to share with the families or the girls themselves, and they continued to operate as they had before, with little to no regard for the safety of the girls in their employ.

I do recommend this book but be prepared for some pretty horrific descriptions of how the radium affected the different girls.


Meanwhile, here in Maine it is so bloody effing cold I could scream. Even my dog, who normally loves winter, does not enjoy going out into the sub-zero temps we're having here. And, to add to my already overabundant joy, a big snow is coming. Yay. Now mind you, I don't dislike snow, but this one is coming with winds which could cause power outages. I didn't like the power outage we had in the fall, and I liked even less the two hour outage we had the other night, coming right in the middle of watching Westworld. But if we lose power during the storm, it will not be coming back on right away and the temps are supposed to plunge back into the single digits so I am a little worried. I hate being cold. Just hate it.

There is, however, one saving grace, a very warm, bright spot on the horizon. In March I am going back to Sanibel Island, this time with my son for our first ever vaca together. Two months and ten days. Then I'll be warm again.


So. How's your winter so far? Is it horrifically cold where you are or do you live somewhere reasonable, like California (my personal favorite warm state)? Read any good books? Looking forward to something? Do tell. 

32 comments:

  1. Three sounds doable.
    We're not quite that cold here, but low teens at night is really damn cold for this area. Snow is here and headed your way - stay safe and warm.

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  2. I did hear about those girls painting with radium. And companies still do crap like that. Scary.

    As a matter of fact, I do live in California. Our high today was 72, thank you very much.

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    1. I know. You live in my favorite state. *sigh* It'll be a while til I see 72 degrees.

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  3. I wanted to read this book too! But have fun on vacay! Right now Houston is way too cold for my taste and I want to be somewhere tropical.

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    1. I sure wish I was somewhere tropical about now!

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  4. I haven't read that book but I heard the story before. It's horrific. I'm with you about the cold. We're not as cold here in PA as you are, but it's near zero almost every night for a week. That snow storm is just getting us with the edge but we're supposed to get the winds. Hope you don't lose power.

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    1. I hope we don't lose power either. As long we don't it'll be ok. If we do, I'll probably cry.

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  5. Wow! That book sounds intense. And how terrible what those women went through

    It's terribly cold here too. I barely have any food so I must go to the grocery store tomorrow. And shovel at least part of the driveway.

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    1. I think this is the longest stretch of frigid temps we've had that I can recall. Not fun!

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  6. I did read about the Radium Girls. And shuddered. And snarled.
    Stay warm, stay safe.
    I am a lover of cold, but our cold is miniscule compared to yours.

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    1. Yes, your cold is the kind I can tolerate.

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  7. Whaaat? They licked some radium? Holy Crap! Although I'm not surprised, they still poison us with all kinds of cancerous materials used for producing packaging and whoknowswhatelsenot. I'm surprised we don't all glow in the dark

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    1. I know. Right? Poor girls. And they did glow. Literally.

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  8. There are no depths to which greedy, callous employers will not stoop. That's an appalling story in a world of appalling stories.

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    1. Greed is pretty much the root of all evil.

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  9. I think we're bracing for the same storm...

    A couple of summers ago, while we were in Nova Scotia, we saw a touring exhibit on WWI. One of the displays was about the "Canary Girls" who made TNT shells - similarly appalling story.

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    1. Same time period. So sad.

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    2. And this, boys and girls, is why supporting science, labor unions and industry regulations is so important!

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  10. I've been thinking about reading that book. I already knew the basic story, but your review convinced me that I'd like the book. It's 38 degrees here and we don't have snow, but for Florida, it's quite cold. We're not accustomed to it anymore. We've gone native.

    Love,
    Janie

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    1. I wish it was 38 degrees here, lol! I've lived in New England all my life and I've never gotten used to the cold.

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  11. I remember learning about these women. It's staggering that the company continued those demands. Not sure I can stomach reading a whole book. ~shakes head~ I'm sick of the cold, too, and look forward to temperatures rising above freezing today (or so my partner keeps telling me). 32 F will feel balmy. I'm spending most of my time writing these days, having fun polishing short stories while contemplating rewrites on later tales in the series. Be well! I look forward to reading about your trip.

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    1. I have quite enough of the cold as well. Today is still effing cold as hell but tomorrow could get up to 30 they say which will feel balmy indeed! I cannot wait to share my trip with everyone!

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  12. Just when I think I've heard most of history's horrific stories, a new one takes its place.
    in other words, i had no idea this happened.
    We are just coming out of a cold patch. It's a balmy 25 today and I can go out without a coat.
    Chores went from 5 minutes (before Christmas) to 45 minutes (after snow and cold), and now down to 10.

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    1. I had no idea either - til I read it. Yup, a balmy 20 here, lol.

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  13. The book sounds interesting but the subject horrible.

    Here, we’ve been cold for Savannah standards and spent a day and a half marooned with ice on the bridges off the island.

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    1. It was very interesting, but also horrible to know how much the women suffered and worse, how much they were ignored.

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  14. Snow is fine. Wind is never okay with cold. When I was at college, that was the one thing I decided: that I would NEVER again live in a cold, windy place.

    See, that's the kind of book I wouldn't be able to stomach. I love your goal! I'm at 3 fiction novels for the year so far. Finished one nonfiction and am reading another. One year I set a reading goal of almost 3 books a week. I made it, but it was pretty crazy. Since then, I'm happy averaging my 1.5 to 2 a week. The reviewing is the hard part though. I want to review them all, it's just sometimes I think I should skip the review. Not all books sit well with all readers, eh?

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    1. It's easy to review books we like or love, harder to review books that don't fall into those categories. When I don't like a book I do try to explain why in objective terms.

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  15. Three books a month! And reviews! That's a hefty goal. I'm lucky if I read one book a month (other than picture books I'm studying). I hope you are posting your reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. They are both helpful to readers and writers. :)

    Happy New Year!

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  16. 3 books a month seems doable.
    Wow, this book sounds crazy sad.
    I live in Virginia so I've experienced 3-5 days straight of teen temperatures followed by 3-5 days straight of 50-60 degrees and then right back to the teens and early 20s again. Everyone around me is sick and totally confused about what season it's supposed to be.

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