The Radium Girls by Kate Moore
Wow! This non-fiction book was so interesting, and it was so awful. I mean, the injuries and illnesses and agonizing deaths these women endured made for hard reading. And yet, I was intrigued.
Starting in 1917 when radium was a new "miracle agent" they started using it in paint to make clock dials glow in the dark. It was applied by young girls and women in a factory by brush, which they put in their mouths to make the brush tip as thin as possible. The book looks at this history in two locations: Orange, New Jersey and Ottawa, Illinois.
After a while, the women started getting very sick. Horrendous damage was done to their bodies. Guess what the response of the employers was. Yeah, it was aggravating to read that, too. The practice of "tip pointing" by mouth continued for many years, even when the industry should have known better.
This is an important part of our history and led to better protection and safer working conditions for employees. The strength and courage of the women involved was completely amazing. Though the story took place in the USA, this book was written by a Brit. She purposely wrote it in novelized style, through the eyes of the girls and women involved. It's not a dry history at all but is an interesting story that will grab your attention. (And watch for a couple of British phrases that reveal it wasn't written in USA. Made me smile.)