Recently I read the true story of young women who lost their health and their lives due to exposure to radium on their jobs. Several aspects of this tragedy stand out in my mind, but especially the fact that girls were hired as young as thirteen to work six days a week. Throughout the years that followed they were still referred to as “girls” no matter their ages. The radium dial companies they worked for kept important information about the dangers of radium from them and treated them as expendable. These young women had no way to know that the pretty glow that showed on their clothes, hair, and bodies was slowly poisoning them.
As they suffered tooth loss, amputations, sarcomas and extreme pain these brave women eventually fought courageously for the truth and for monetary compensation. Their suffering and their efforts resulted in workplace regulations still in place today and even safeguards in the manufacture of the atomic bomb.
I highly recommend “The Radium Girls” by Kate Moore. The story begins around 1917 and covers the WWI and WWII eras and well into the 1970s. The results of the courage of these “ghost girls” protect us all even today in the 21st Century.
“Courage, sacrifice, determination, commitment, toughness, heart, talent, guts. That’s what little girls are made of.” Bethany Hamilton