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The Radium Girls

They Paid with Their Lives. Their Final Fight Was for Justice.
Narrated by: Kate Moore
Length: 15 hrs and 37 mins
Categories: History, 20th Century
4.5 out of 5 stars (271 ratings)

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Summary

Ordinary women in 1920s America.

All they wanted was the chance to shine.

Be careful what you wish for.

"The first thing we asked was, 'Does this stuff hurt you?' And they said, 'No.' The company said that it wasn't dangerous, that we didn't need to be afraid."

In 1917, as a war raged across the world, young American women flocked to work, painting watches, clocks, and military dials with a special luminous substance made from radium. It was a fun job, lucrative and glamorous - the girls themselves shone brightly in the dark, covered head to toe in the dust from the paint. They were the radium girls.

As the years passed, the women began to suffer from mysterious and crippling illnesses. The very thing that had made them feel alive - their work - was in fact slowly killing them: They had been poisoned by the radium paint. Yet their employers denied all responsibility. And so, in the face of unimaginable suffering - in the face of death - these courageous women refused to accept their fate quietly and instead became determined to fight for justice.

Drawing on previously unpublished sources - including diaries, letters, and court transcripts as well as original interviews with the women's relatives - The Radium Girls is an intimate narrative account of an unforgettable true story. It is the powerful tale of a group of ordinary women from the Roaring Twenties who themselves learned how to roar.

©2016 Kate Moore (P)2016 Simon & Schuster

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Outstanding and well researched book

This story moved me to tears on many occasions. Outstandingly read by the author with feeling. The plight of these girls should never be forgotten.

15 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Brilliant reading but sync problems exist

Kate Moore reads the true story of the Radium Girls with commitment and passion. The voices of the girls comes through vividly. Kate felt that while there have been some excellent studies of the radium dial scandal the voices of the victims had somehow been lost. Thus her book puts an emphasis on those tragic young women and she did considerable research with their families as well as having access to the memoir of Katherine Schaub written as her too short life drew to a close. This is why Kate was able to so vividly describe Katherine’s first encounters with the Radium Dial Company. The crucial lesson of the terrible events is that the greed and lies of the radium dial companies dehumanised the girls, violated their rights, and caused horrible suffering not only to the women but to those who loved them. In so doing these company officials dehumanised themselves as well.

My one problem and the reason I don’t give this five stars lies in the problem that arises from the synchronisation of the Kindle text and The Audible narration. Frequently the last part of the text will stop syncing near the end of a chapters and a message will come up that states that no sync is available. The syncing will begin again at or near the start of the next chapter. It is quite irritating. This,effect occurs quite often. More seriously occasionally Kate will suddenly narrate from a different—usually longer—text than that which appears in the Kindle book. Chapter 36 has an example of this.

I would hope that Audible will fix this difficulty.

24 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

harrowing

Yes I was in tears several times. The way the legal system was perverted and the sheer shameless lies beggars belief. This story is about a company who knew they were killing their staff in the most agonizing way and reneged on negotiated settlements whilst continuing hiring young women and making millions whilst making the most pitifully small amounts of compensation, character assassination, misinformation to mention but a few. They probably paid their lawyers more than any compensation. The legal system, lawyers and the medical profession all are culpable not forgetting big business and the government. Not the finest hour in American history. From my own point of view, I was a union member and steward and proud of all those who paved the way for better working conditions.

4 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Powerful Story Irritating Narration

This is a truly shocking story - I found myself gasping in disbelief at some of the genuinely jaw-dropping (pardon the expression) revelations - and it is its strength that kept me going to the end, in spite of the awful narration.

I can’t profess to be a fan of Kate Moore’s style of writing and. Certainly. Not. Of. Her. Strange. Staccato. Delivery. Terrible, theatrical, over-dramatised narration, which the story does not need; it is dramatic enough on its own (and how does a 30-something woman manage to sound like a 13-year old girl anyway?) I ashoom (sic) she was reading it how she was imagining it when she wrote it.

Some of her pronunciation would have been risible if it weren’t so irritating: ashooming, conshoomer, clappsed, clective, diptheria, becuzz, prehaps… (I could go on.) And while I understand that it was necessary to demonstrate that these were young, vibrant, attractive, fashionable women (I kept having to remind myself they were only in their early 20s) was it really necessary to be told of the physical attributes of (virtually) every person in the book? Was it relevant if a doctor had a bald head and glasses? I don’t think so. I found it really grating on me by about halfway through.

That being said, the account is totally engrossing. The shameless machinations of the companies in trying to protect their reputations and, more importantly, their profits, were staggering! I was entirely unaware of the struggles of these women and of their part both in changing industrial safety regulations and in the greater knowledge of radioactivity and its effects. A powerful story that needed to be told, but probably not by Kate Moore.

2 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Utterly brilliant

One of the best researched and best told stories I've ever heard. Astounded by some of the facts and behaviours of the people in this story. Would highly recommend this book to anyone

1 person found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

well written and narrated it stayed with me<br /><br />

It's a story of life lessons. Unfairness, values, struggle and never giving up. in equal parts it is inspirational, heart breaking and sad, and unwaveringly human. Enjoyed wouldn't describe it, but glad I found it would. Those women were heroic and glorious. A very good read.

1 person found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

A good story but could have been told better

This was way longer than it needed to be. There were so many characters that it was difficult to meaningfully connect with any one of them. The author obviously did a lot of research and felt the need to fill the book with all of it, even when it became repetitive. Some of the writing was cheesy, with a reliance on repetition for dramatic effect, which I didn't enjoy. Also, one would think that someone with the last name "Moore" would know better than to describe someone as having "an Irish temper".

Overall, I'm glad I listened to it because it's an important story, but it was a slog and I'm glad to be finished!

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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Eye opening and riveting!

I actually thought this was a purely fictional book when I bought it. The story was horrifying and compelling. Stirred a lot of emotions due to the injustice faced by all those women. A brilliant book!

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An amazing book of an amazing story

I loved everything about this audiobook. The story was so informative and the dignity of the radium girls made me sad and mad. I couldn't put it down. How strange that human nature hasn't changed over time and the lawyers swopped allegiance according to how much they were likely to gain financially. A very good balanced account of a hideous true story.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

A true story that everyone should listen to.

I found this book compelling and Kate Moore, also the author, read it with great emotion.
I vaguely knew something about the damage that Radium had done to the people who painted it onto watches etc all those years ago, before its dangerous effects were know about, but had absolutely no idea of the extent to which these poor, young women were harmed, and subsequently wronged.
Researched into minute details, it seems to me to be a book that should be on everyone's compulsory book list, for the sake of history, and for the sake of the deaths and injuries suffered by the workers, and the lessons to be learned regarding the use of untested, potentially dangerous chemicals etc, of which there are some parallels today (eg weed killers, mobile phones etc - lack of evidence of any harm caused does not always equate to this being evidence of harmlessness.)
Kate puts her heart and soul into reading her book, and I would like to hear her reading more audiobooks. However, she uses quite a few words in her writing which she uses in the correct context, but does not know how to pronounce correctly, which is such a shame, as it detracts from the over all enjoyment. (eg foyer, slough, assure) If Kate reads other books, I hope that someone will help her with her pronunciation and enable her to correctly pronounce all the words that she competently uses to add richness to a story.

I may well listen to this book again, as it was so shocking and so well written.

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  • NMwritergal
  • 07-10-16

While this is a story that needed to be told…

…it needed to be told in half the time. One problem is that the author follows too many characters who she tries to flesh out.

Therein lies the second problem. While I love narrative nonfiction, with this book I think she used too many fictional techniques in trying to bring the characters to life. I thought over and over that there was no way the author could know X. She’s in a person’s head describing thoughts and feelings she couldn’t know. She’s in a closed room, describing actions nobody saw. For example (this isn’t direct from the book, but it is representative of a scene in the book): Dr so-and-so stood in his empty office. He was grumbling as he dug through his messy desk drawer looking for an X-ray. Once again, he wished he were more organized and felt like a failure in the organization department. He ran his hand through his black hair, slicked back with hair pomade, scowled at the greas on the palm of his hand, wiped it off on his brown tie, and said, “Now where did I put that x-ray?” and continued to dig.

While I understand the author used original source material, examples like the above run rampant throughout the book. Are we to believe that material exists from the 1920s where we know what the doctor, alone in his office, was doing, thinking, feeling, wearing? I think not. She does this with about every single character--and like I said, there are a ton of people in the book.

Also, many repetitive gruesome descriptions of what happened to “the girls.” Had I been reading, I would have skimmed. Just a ton of repetition in general.

The author (English) narrates her own book and did a very nice job. It’s usually a disaster when novelists read their own fiction, but it seems nonfiction writers are much better at reading their memoir or nonfiction.

7 people found this helpful

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  • Lene
  • 05-01-20

A wonderful, horrible history

This is a truly fascinating story of human courage. I had never heard of The Radium Girls before I read this book. During listening, I went and checked all of my antique clocks. I needed to make sure none of them had radium dials.

You need to hear this story.
You need to face the horrors of workers from a different era.

Loved it.