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



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

Publisher’s Summary:
The Curies’ newly discovered element of radium makes gleaming headlines across the nation as the fresh face of beauty, and wonder drug of the medical community. From body lotion to tonic water, the popular new element shines bright in the otherwise dark years of the First World War.

Meanwhile, hundreds of girls toil amidst the glowing dust of the radium-dial factories. The glittering chemical covers their bodies from head to toe; they light up the night like industrious fireflies. With such a coveted job, these “shining girls” are the luckiest alive — until they begin to fall mysteriously ill.

But the factories that once offered golden opportunities are now ignoring all claims of the gruesome side effects, and the women’s cries of corruption. And as the fatal poison of the radium takes hold, the brave shining girls find themselves embroiled in one of the biggest scandals of America’s early 20th century, and in a groundbreaking battle for workers’ rights that will echo for centuries to come.

Written with a sparkling voice and breakneck pace, The Radium Girls fully illuminates the inspiring young women exposed to the “wonder” substance of radium, and their awe-inspiring strength in the face of almost impossible circumstances. Their courage and tenacity led to life-changing regulations, research into nuclear bombing, and ultimately saved hundreds of thousands of lives.

Primary Source Pairing:
Author Kate Moore’s work is narrative nonfiction at its best. The Radium Girls is a compelling read with page-turning suspense. Even over a hundred years later, the story of these shining women is important to share to understand their sacrifices and how they helped change history. For this primary source pairing, invite students to use an analysis bookmark as they study the images included in the middle of the book. Encourage students to view these images frequently as they read to fully comprehend the text.

Questions for Discussion:

  • Examine the primary source.
  • What do you notice first?
  • What is happening in the image?
  • Who is in this image?
  • Find something small but interesting.
  • How does this primary source help you understand the history depicted in The Radium Girls?
  • What questions does this primary source answer? What questions do you still have?

Book Cover and Summary: Follett
RadiumGirls_ReadersBookmark: Created by JMarek