I just finished Kate Moore’s young reader’s edition of The Radium Girls. Wow! I was emotionally engaged from beginning to end. Moore tells the story of hundreds of young women who found financial freedom and empowerment by painting watch dials for a generous wage in the 1910s and 20s. Sadly, these young women were soon plagued with health issues that most often led to their deaths. It turns out they were painting with poison. The same radium that made the time visible on watches after dark seeped into the women’s bones as they pointed paintbrushes between their teeth.
Moore does a brilliant job balancing the politics and emotion of the situation. She dives deep into the lives of several women to illustrate their suffering and their strength. Moore doesn’t represent any of the young women as victims. Instead she portrays them as fighters with multifaceted personalities doomed to die because of corporate greed.
The Radium Girls is a beautifully researched and written book full of pain and promise. I’m glad to have learned about this horrific piece of history and am sure young readers will feel the same.
Although The Radium Girls is marketed to a middle-grade audience of readers eight-years and older, the content is quite mature and I would recommend it for readers over twelve-years-old.
This book was nominated for a Cybils Award and I received a copy.