When radium was first discovered it was thought to be the miracle element. There seemed to be no end to the things it could do: glow in the dark, shrink cancerous tumors and create jobs for hundreds. It was used in the paint to create luminous dials for the military and also for personal watches. The dial painters worked in New Jersey, Illinois and Connecticut and they all thought they had won the lottery. They had easy, good paying jobs, they loved their co-workers and they had a literal glow about them that set them apart from their peers. Unfortunately they didn’t know that their dream job was slowly killing them.
This is the true story of the women who applied radium paint to dial faces using a brush pointing method of placing the brush in their mouths to create the fine brush point. That is why these workers suffered the worst effects of radium poisoning, they ingested the poison. Many of the women started feeling ill after leaving employ at the factory and the radium manufacturers refused to acknowledge any wrongdoing. This is the fight against the corporation by women dying in front of their judge and jury; a case that was a victory for workers rights and helped establish OSHA.
It is an important book detailing a landmark legal battle, but it is also an extremely difficult book to read. These women suffer terribly but their strength in continuing to fight while their bodies are dying is inspiring.