The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women by Kate Moore

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My Review:

I spent the entire time reading this book shaking my head. Wincing as one girl after another lost a tooth and another tooth and had jaw bones removed and suffered leg pain …limping, amputations, bedridden and then painful deaths. Radium poisoning that infiltrated the factory workers and slowly destroyed them from the inside out.  And for many years there was nobody to help them fight for their rights, nobody to stand up to big business, and weak men who hid the truth so business could prosper at the expense of The Radium Girls.  Uplifting book it is not….If only Erin Brockovich was alive in the early 1900s.

The Radium Girls were mostly teenagers and in their 20s; they were lucky enough to land well paying jobs in the factories painting numbers on watches out of radium paint.  They were told to put the brushes in their mouths to make it fine and pointy so unknowingly the girls were ingesting dangerous radium everyday.  The substance got on their clothes and made them glow; they were covered in it by days end everyday and never knew it was harmful.  The executives insisted the paint was safe and they repeatedly tested the women throughout the years to confirm they were all in good health.

Unfortunately, it was obvious their health was failing them and many of the test results did show the girls were radioactive but the businessmen covered it up and hid the reports so the lucrative watch dial business could continue.  Sadly for the girls, repercussions did not physically show up right away and many of them reported health issues years after they left the factory.

Some of the girls tried to hire lawyers and doctors to vouch for their claims that the job caused them to get sick but for a long time nobody really was able to take on the big company’s powerful legal and medical team, so one by one, girls were using all their family’s money for lawyers, healthcare and then ultimately dying, leaving their families destitute.

Author Kate Moore tells the tragic history of the Radium companies and the legal battles through stories of these important women who worked hard, cared for their families and friends, suffered the unthinkable health issues and experienced financial drain.  The Radium Girls deserve recognition for fighting the big companies who insisted Radium was safe and illegally covered up the truth as they knew it.  They fought for themselves,  and the women who would be exposed to toxic chemicals in the future.

The Radium Girls is a tribute to these hard working, strong women and the generous lawyer who fought hard for justice.  “Radium had been known to be harmful since 1901.  Every death since was unnecessary.”

I highly recommend this informative and thought provoking book.  Parallels can be drawn to current day when we look at the number of cases of cancer where we have not been able to connect them to any one instigating cause.  One big difference is our current ability to share information, research and case studies in real time via everyday technology so time is not lost.  With so many people suffering, there continues to be much to do.

As Seen in Goodreads:

The incredible true story of the young women exposed to the “wonder” substance of radium and their brave struggle for justice…

As World War I raged across the globe, hundreds of young women toiled away at the radium-dial factories, where they painted clock faces with a mysterious new substance called radium. Assured by their bosses that the luminous material was safe, the women themselves shone brightly in the dark, covered from head to toe with the glowing dust. With such a coveted job, these “shining girls” were considered the luckiest alive—until they began to fall mysteriously ill. As the fatal poison of the radium took hold, they found themselves embroiled in one of America’s biggest scandals and a groundbreaking battle for workers’ rights.

A rich, historical narrative written in a sparkling voice, The Radium Girls is the first book that fully explores the strength of extraordinary women in the face of almost impossible circumstances and the astonishing legacy they left behind.

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About the Author:

My background is in book publishing; I worked in-house as an editor for twelve years, most recently as an editorial director at Penguin Random House, before going freelance as an editor and author in 2014. I discovered the girls’ story through directing These Shining Lives by Melanie Marnich, which dramatizes the Ottawa dial-painters’ experiences. The story really resonated with me. Through my research to make my theatre production authentic, I realized no book existed that told the story from the girls’ perspective. I felt passionately about ensuring they were remembered and the individual women celebrated, which is how the book came to be.
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Fractured Memories by Emily Page

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Fractured Memories:  Because Demented People need Love, Too by Emily Page.

Emily and her father were extremely close; they had a unique and special father-daughter relationship. In this brutally honest and real book Emily first tells us about her larger than life father in a way we can really get to know and love him as she did; a vibrant, talented and colorful guy. Next, she brings us on her journey as a devoted daughter, caregiver and decision maker as we learn about how dementia manifested in her dad and slowly took him. She bravely offers up her thoughts recorded in her journal during this time and includes her beautiful artwork which depicts her dad, his faltering state of mind, and their relationship as it changed. I laughed and cried through this book as it touched my heart.

If you know me you probably are aware that my father has been living with dementia for almost a decade and my incredibly strong and brave mother is his primary caregiver along with daytime, lifesaving in-home caregivers. Day to day living is consistently stressful and worrisome; riddled with questions where no answers exist and little support is available. The doctors don’t know enough, many caregivers lack proper experience or intuition, most friends and family don’t come around often, and every little household chore becomes a huge burden to tackle. More recently Alzheimer’s and dementia have been in the spotlight due to publicity from news about Pat Summit, Glen Campbell, Ronald Reagan and Robin Williams, but the media (tv, movies, and books) had yet to present to me anything that resembles truly what dementia entails and what my family has been enduring…until Fractured Memories: Because Demented PeopleNeed Love, Too.

 
Its not always as simple as the person with dementia gradually just forgetting things and becoming quiet. It is so much more and so much worse. It’s more like watching your loved one go from being strong, independent, creative and reasonable to not driving, not knowing what to do with a pencil, unable to complete a sentence. Keeping your loved one clean, dressed, safe, fed, distracted, nonviolent, happy and occupied uses up every bit of energy. And if you are lucky to sleep at night you can recharge to be ready to do it all over again the next day, but often sleep doesn’t come because of the worries about money, medications, living situations, proper help, the future…Emily Page offers advise and tips for caregivers, dementia facilities, and friends and family of dementia patients…so many tidbits I have wanted to scream from the rooftops myself! She has touched on just how difficult this disease is for the patient and the family.

 

If you know anyone with dementia or Alzheimer’s – if you are a loved one, a caregiver, a friend, acquaintance, nurse, hospital worker or volunteer, YOU MUST READ THIS BOOK.
If you have lost someone due to dementia YOU MUST READ THIS BOOK.
And even if you have no connection to anyone with this disease YOU MUST READ THIS BOOK.

 

Education and understand can only help lead to new medications and hopefully a cure or preventions and better training, facilities and care for the increased number of people who end up with this devastating and debilitating disease that effects entire families as well as the patient. Kudos to author and artist Emily Page for being honest and truthful in her book and her artwork, and loving and loyal to her wonderful father. May his memory be for a blessing.

 

 

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About the author as stated in Goodreads:

Emily Page is a professional artist and part-time writer. Working out of Raleigh, NC, Page spends most of her time elbow deep in paint, but comes up for air periodically to share her art and thoughts on her blog. She translated her ridiculous musings about her family’s journey through her father’s dementia into a book, Fractured Memories: Because Demented People Need Love, Too, available at http://shop.emilypageart.com/. Follow her on Twitter at @EmilyPageArt23, and read her blog at https://emilypageart.net/.

The Weight of Him by Ethel Rohan

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Billy Brennan is overweight, 401 lbs to be exact. He and his wife Tricia just lost their oldest teenage son Michael to suicide, and with no recollection of the boy being unhappy and no note of explanation, they are blindsided and distraught. This horrific tragedy has left the family in shambles. As the couple and their 3 remaining children struggle in their grief to reclaim an element of normalcy, Billy steps out of his typical complacency and decides he will make a big change in his own life and attempt to get healthy in honor of his beloved son. With a unwavering commitment to lose 200 pounds, organize a walk to raise money for suicide prevention and film a documentary to publicize this terrible and prevalent occurrance, he pushes forward with determination while his family chooses not to support him and his efforts as they deal with their grief in their own ways.

Ethel Rohan does a fine job showing us some of the challenges of weight loss and the struggles brought on by suicide in broad strokes. Billy is a likable character and despite his lack of support from the family, the community starts to rally behind him.  I was rooting him on every step of the way as his effort picked up momentum. I found the relationship development with Billy and his wife and other children to be a little shallow at times and reenactment of playing with his deceased son with the wooden toys a bit odd for a grown man, but grief can be expressed in many ways. Despite dealing with the sensitive topics of obesity and suicide, The Weight of Him was a very enjoyable and quick read.