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These Working-Class Women Were Eaten Alive By Radium


2018-4-15 13:09 Health 3 0 0
These Working-Class Women Were Eaten Alive By Radium

The factory girls were told the radium they were ingesting was safe, but it turned out to be their demise.

















In 1898, Marie Curie and her husband Pierre discovered the element radium and earned two Nobel Prizes. But in 1934, Marie died from radiation exposure. The chemist's death was just one stop on radium's trail of destruction.



In 1898, Marie Curie and her husband Pierre discovered the element radium and earned two Nobel Prizes. But in 1934, Marie died from radiation exposure. The chemist's death was just one stop on radium's trail of destruction.






Wikimedia Commons





















From the early-to-mid-20th century, radium cropped up everywhere in consumer goods.



From the early-to-mid-20th century, radium cropped up everywhere in consumer goods.






Andrea Hickey / BuzzFeed





















People equated radium's glow with health and vitality, hence its use in medicines and cosmetics.



People equated radium's glow with health and vitality, hence its use in medicines and cosmetics.






Radior Cosmetics / Via Wikimedia Commons





















It was also common at the time to drink water laced with radium.



It was also common at the time to drink water laced with radium.






Flickr: blueshift12





















During World War I, The United States Radium Corporation set up a watch factory in Orange, New Jersey. Many of their employees were young women, who painted the watch faces and tiny dials with glowing radium paint.



During World War I, The United States Radium Corporation set up a watch factory in Orange, New Jersey. Many of their employees were young women, who painted the watch faces and tiny dials with glowing radium paint.






Wikimedia Commons





















Other major radium watch companies were in business in Waterbury, Connecticut and Ottawa, Illinois.



Other major radium watch companies were in business in Waterbury, Connecticut and Ottawa, Illinois.






Public Domain





















To get a fine point on their brushes, the women were instructed to lick the brush tip, ingesting radium every time.



To get a fine point on their brushes, the women were instructed to lick the brush tip, ingesting radium every time.



This photo appeared in a 1938 newspaper, with the caption "Her left arm gone as result of radium poisoning, Charlotte Purcell demonstrates how doomed radium workers pointed brush tips for painting luminous watch dials, thus contracting dread disease."




Leonard Grossman / Via lgrossman.com




















Flickr: darronb





















When the women asked their superiors whether the paint was safe to ingest, they were told yes. But the company knew it wasn't, and the dangers of radium weren't unknown at this time. In fact, the male workers at the watch factory were protected with lead aprons and metal tongs for handling the radium, while the women had no protection at all.



When the women asked their superiors whether the paint was safe to ingest, they were told yes. But the company knew it wasn't, and the dangers of radium weren't unknown at this time. In fact, the male workers at the watch factory were protected with lead aprons and metal tongs for handling the radium, while the women had no protection at all.






Andrea Hickey / BuzzFeed





















In 1922, a worker named Mollie Maggia fell very ill. Her body was decaying before her eyes. At one point, her entire jaw literally fell off. She died the same year.



In 1922, a worker named Mollie Maggia fell very ill. Her body was decaying before her eyes. At one point, her entire jaw literally fell off. She died the same year.






Andrea Hickey / BuzzFeed





















Other women suffered horrifically as well. The radium ate away at their bones, gave them giant tumors, and actually made them glow in the dark.



Other women suffered horrifically as well. The radium ate away at their bones, gave them giant tumors, and actually made them glow in the dark.






Andrea Hickey / BuzzFeed





















The U.S. Radium Corporation denied being at fault, claiming its employees were just trying to get money from the company. They even tried to ruin the women's reputations – including Molly Maggia's – by asserting their health problems were due to syphilis.



The U.S. Radium Corporation denied being at fault, claiming its employees were just trying to get money from the company. They even tried to ruin the women's reputations – including Molly Maggia's – by asserting their health problems were due to syphilis.






National Park Service / Via Wikimedia Commons





















In 1928, Sabin Von Sochocky, one of the founders of the U.S. Radium Corporation and the man who had actually invented the radium-laced paint, died from exposure to his own product.



In 1928, Sabin Von Sochocky, one of the founders of the U.S. Radium Corporation and the man who had actually invented the radium-laced paint, died from exposure to his own product.






The American Magazine / Via Wikimedia Coommons







































The radium girls pushed for safer work environments while facing their own fast-approaching deaths.



The radium girls pushed for safer work environments while facing their own fast-approaching deaths.






Leonard Grossman / Via lgrossman.com

























This memorial to the radium girls stands in Ottawa, Illinois, where the Radium Dial Company once operated.




Flickr: polomex





















A century later, the radium in their bones still glimmers underground.



A century later, the radium in their bones still glimmers underground.






Andrea Hickey / BuzzFeed





















Need more creepiness in your life? Check out Backstitch on Instagram! You'll find stories and comics all about fatal fashion through history!



Need more creepiness in your life? Check out Backstitch on Instagram! You'll find stories and comics all about fatal fashion through history!






Andrea Hickey / BuzzFeed


















Sources: Jacopo Prisco / CNN, Kate Moore / BuzzFeed, Adrienne Crezo / Mental Floss, Debbie Galant / NY Times, Suzette Ferrari / Slidell Little Theatre, Daven Hiskey / Today I Found Out, Roger Russell / Radioactive



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