• The Radium Girls

  • They Paid with Their Lives. Their Final Fight Was for Justice.
  • By: Kate Moore
  • Narrated by: Kate Moore
  • Length: 15 hrs and 37 mins
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars (48 ratings)

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The Radium Girls

By: Kate Moore
Narrated by: Kate Moore
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Publisher's 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Drawing on previously unpublished sources - including diaries, letters, and court transcripts as well as original interviews with the women's relatives - The Radium Girls is an intimate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
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

What listeners say about The Radium Girls

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

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.

8 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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exceptionally well narrated

the story is repetitive but the narrator, also the author was so passionate about subject matter, I couldn't stop listening to this even if the stories are so dire, depressing. there's no happy ending, a lot of injustices, a lot of cruel fate and unfairness but this was in 1920s to 1930s, all of them if alive then are long dead. but their legacies survived, and that insidious radium glow. it is a frightening story, especially in the beginning when everyone was so jolly but you and I know in retrospect what radium is and I felt such dread. the companies were inhumane and frankly none of them had any real justice. kudos to the author for how she narrated her own book, complete with her own quirky pronunciation. she was the reason I follow this story intently and finished it. if not, I would have stopped because the stories are so depressing. and Google the pictures. all these brave women forced into the position of championing workers rights when all they wanted was a steady income, a family, children and ripe old age. the companies robbed them of these basic right, even the most precious commodity, time. such a cruel fate. highly recommended, especially audible version.

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The radium girls deserve a better book

This book could have been cut by two thirds. Overly sentimental and repetitive. There are podcasts that to the story much better justice than this book and in 1/10th of the time. I feel sorry for the narrator who had to go through it in its entirety. I give it two stars because it's a story people should know, but it really only deserves one.

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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.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Richard Johnston
  • 06-08-18

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.

26 people found this helpful

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  • Janis Uk
  • 02-14-19

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.

16 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Isabelle Costigan
  • 03-29-18

Would prefer another narrator

Very upsetting story, well written. Painful narration and mispronounciation of words- e.g. clapsed(collapsed) & E (he)

8 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Amazon Customer
  • 02-21-19

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.

6 people found this helpful

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  • JanJan
  • 03-16-19

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.

4 people found this helpful

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  • J. Thomas
  • 11-26-20

Awful narration

The decision of having the author narrate is its biggest failure. She has the most bizarre habit of punctuating. Each. Word. With. A. Full. Stop. After 59 chapters it drove me to the point of despising her voice! She seemed almost conscious to pronounce each word singularly and perfectly, as you might if just reading a list of words from the dictionary. Ironically, she mispronounced words in every chapter, and it was easy to spot due to her weird rhythm. The use of repetition is painful and cringe-worthy in parts. The author did not decide clearly whether she was writing a factual account of matters, or a romanticised fictional novel. The result is a book jumping from one genre and tense to the next; from describing what the characters ARE doing then bringing in snippets of memoirs and reflections, fast forwarded in time. She included fabricated present tense speech, thoughts and feelings alongside retrospective factual accounts. This need not have been half as long as it was. Her painfully uninspiring descriptions of people droned on and on for each individual. I felt she had a list of how to say 'she later said' in different ways, and picked them at random to try and get some variation in her writing. I'd simply wish I'd googled this interesting subject matter, rather than waste my time on this terrible piece of writing and narration.

3 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Tim
  • 02-27-20

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

2 people found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • Debra
  • 03-01-19

Intolerably irritating

I listened to 16 chapters, but could take no more of the jejune style, wrong choice of vocabulary (eg savings being desecrated instead of decimated) and over-expressive “storytelling” narration technique. I did think the work was very well researched, and presented with genuine passion and truly humane indignation - but I just didn’t enjoy it.

2 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • June.Reads
  • 02-12-22

Powerful

I tried reading thja book and I couldn't due to the topic. Whoever, the audiobook was wonderful. It is a powerful one!

1 person found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Joni J Mielke
  • 12-11-21

A very important listen

From the start it's clear that this is an excellent and very well researched non-fictional account of the horrifying experiences that The Radium Girls endured nearly a hundred years ago. The author's attention to detail is exacting and precise, and yet the women whose lives she is unpacking are not merely reduced to names and medical conditions but are reclaimed as fully human individuals who lived and loved and inevitably gave far more than should ever have been required of them. This is a truly memorable account of the lives of the perpetrators, victims and families that probably won't fade from my memory anytime soon. I would definitely recommend this to others.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Mandy K
  • 09-20-22

A story like no other!

The Radium Girls is like no other! I gasped, cried, cheered and cried some more with my hand on my heart.

Katherine and her colleagues loved their job. They were paid very well to work hard with their new found friends. After all they were contributing to the war the best way they new how, painting watches, clocks and military dials. The paint was luminous and the powder managed to get everywhere.

“It was perfectly safe” they were told and of course they trusted their employer - until they began to get sick! And their employer denied responsibility. How are they to blame when they only supplied the poisonous radium paint?

The fight for justice while suffering through crippling pain is nothing short of heroic!

A must read! And the audiobook experience was breathtaking!

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  • Erana
  • 03-31-22

Devastating but beautifully written

I'm loath to say I "enjoyed" this book due to the subject matter, but it made for incredibly captivating listening. Moved me to tears a couple of times. It is beautifully written, however some of the intonation/emphasis used in the narration is a little odd. Overall this book made me want to know more and I will definitely look up other books by this author.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 11-07-20

Absolutely A must read/listen

This book and the way it is told brought these girls back to life. and helps me understand history so much better. Must listen. Gave me goosebumbs
made me Angry for what had happened to these girls.

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  • Ella
  • 10-23-20

A overlooked part of history

This book is phenomenal. It is very informative, almost too graphic at times (while not being exploitative). This is an overlooked part of history which many people do not know about. I would give a warning to anyone who has a phobia about dentists/dental procedures/teeth that some bits of the book may trigger you.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Keely Lohman
  • 09-10-20

Fascinating look into history

This was a beautiful journey into the history of radium and an in depth history into the horrible treatment and pain these women went through to provide a product that was so misunderstood.
It was really interesting following different women through the journeys. And heartbreaking to see the end result of such close work with them.

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Gab
  • 07-15-20

Devestating but interesting

The story of the girls is heartbreaking and it great that its finally being told. the first part of the book was gripping but towards the end I found the there was too much speculating about the feelings of the girls that made the story go in circles and hard to read.
Not an entirely historical read, but you can tell the author is passionate and therefore makes a fine listen.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 09-23-19

Absolutely a must read.

Beautifully horrifying. A must read for people interested in the history of suffrage or just general history of nuclear science.

A book about forgotten heroes.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Jon
  • 07-11-19

An astounding story

It was with horror that I listened to the story unfold. To think that Radium was used so “carelessly”. I guess much of the principle in the story has been repeated by careless and even dangerous quackery which has always been around. Think of the Bex powders which later showed to have a Cancer causing ingredient.
Well read by the author, I’m pleased to have learnt about this.

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  • Emily
  • 06-23-19

I never knew

I never knew about the happenings of radium in 1920 and the effects it had on all, not just the workers. Thank you for producing this book Kate Moore. My eyes are now open.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 06-13-19

Fascinating

I throughly enjoyed this! It is not a book I would typically read however it was chosen by my book club for this month and I am so glad it was! I have learnt so much about something I knew nothing about. This book is so empowering. I could not stop listening to it.