Despite assurances from their employers, radium was not safe for these girls to work with and in some cases ingest. They are mostly poor working class girls that feel like they’ve hit the proverbial lottery and bask in being known as the “shining girls” until years pass and they all start suffering from terrible illnesses. In the time of World War 1 and the years after that these girls painted watch faces and airplane instruments so that they would glow in the dark. The fact that it took years before anyone connected the fact that radium was indeed dangerous is surprising to me. The story follows two sets of women one in New Jersey and the other group in rural Illinois. Just as the New Jersey girls are getting very sick, you watch the whole story play out again from the beginning in Illinois.
Eventually, some of the surviving girls decided to take the company to court, and this is where the book really took off for me. Like a 1920’s Law and Order episode the company and the doctors who worked for them continued to lie and cover up their wrongdoings. These girls were looking for money to pay their medical bills and maybe have some to leave their families as they all realized by that point that they were very sick indeed.
I would recommend this book to seventh and eighth-grade students and high school students and anyone else who hasn’t read about these brave woman.
Footnote: It wasn’t until 1979 that the courts found the successors of the original Radium Dial Factory liable for the clean-up costs at the old sites.
I received a DRC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Publish Date: May 2, 2017