The Radium Girls by Kate Moore

The Radium Girls by Kate Moore

Author:Kate Moore [Moore, Kate]
Language: eng
Format: epub
ISBN: 9781471153891
Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK


Orange, New Jersey

Summer 1928

For those five New Jersey dial-painters who had triumphed over their former firm, life was sweet. From her award, Katherine gave her father, William, $2,000 ($27,700) towards his mortgage: ‘I could find, I knew, no greater happiness than that which would be mine by making the folks happy,’ she pronounced. ‘It made me so happy to see Father relieved of those worries.’

For herself, she declared she would live ‘like Cinderella as the princess at the ball . . . Today was mine.’ The budding author bought a typewriter, as well as splashing out on clothes: silk dresses and lingerie. ‘I bought the kind of coat I had always wanted,’ she enthused, ‘and a tan felt hat to match.’

Edna, who had always loved music, invested in a piano and a radio. Many of the women bought automobiles so they could get around more easily. Yet the girls were also financially astute, investing in building and loan shares.

‘Not a cent of [the money] has ever entered this house,’ Grace informed a reporter. ‘To me, money doesn’t mean luxury. It means security. Those $10,000 are safely invested.’

‘What for?’ asked the journalist.

Grace smiled enigmatically as she answered. ‘For the future!’

And the money wasn’t the only boon to their spirits, for many of the doctors they consulted now offered hope. Von Sochocky announced that, ‘In my opinion, the girls are going to live much longer than they themselves believe.’ Even Martland, noting that there had been no deaths for some years of the ilk suffered by Mollie Maggia and Marguerite Carlough, theorised that there were now ‘two kinds of dial-painter cases, early ones and late ones. The early ones were marked by severe anaemia and jaw necrosis . . . The late cases lacked (or had recovered from) the anaemia and jaw infections.’ Martland thought the faster decay of mesothorium accounted for the difference; the girls were under attack ferociously for the first seven years, but once mesothorium moved to its next half-life, the attack diminished sufficiently to spare the girls; almost as though their poisoning was a rising tidal wave, and the women had managed to scramble to safety just as the waters began to recede. Although the radium was still bombarding their bones, radium was notoriously less aggressive than mesothorium. Martland now posited that if the late cases ‘survived the early maladies, they had a fair chance of surviving radium poisoning altogether’ – although they would always have those moth-eaten bones from the radium rippled right through them. ‘I am of the opinion that the girls we are seeing now,’ he said, ‘while they may be permanently crippled, have a considerable chance of beating the disease.’

That prognosis, bleak as it sounded in some ways, gave the women that most precious of commodities: time. ‘Someone may find a cure for us, even at the eleventh hour,’ Grace said brightly.

Most of the girls went away for the summer. Albina and James set off on ‘the dream of a lifetime’: a motoring trip to Canada.


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