The Radium Girls

At the beginning of World War 1, companies started making watches for the soldiers and the dials of these watches were painted with radium. Radium was a glow in dark substance and painting the dial with radium would help the soldiers to see the time even in the dark.


For painting the dials with radium precision and accuracy is required and for this skilled girl were recruited. These girls were well paid and they were happy getting work and being well paid amidst unemployment in the USA. At first, when they used to work in the factory painting the watch dials with radium, they were asked to lick the paintbrush to make the tip of the paintbrush fine. Due to this their skin and clothes used to shine whenever they used to go out.


When Marie Curie and Pierre Currie discovered radium, only the advantages were known and it was not known at that time that radium is radioactive and this radioactivity can cause death.
Radium was being used in almost everything at that time in cosmetics, toothpaste and other commonly used items.


These Radium Girls were never told about the ill effects of radium and thus they continued to work at the factory until one day one of the girls, Amelia Maggia working at the Radium Luminous Material Corp. developed a toothache and which resulted in the removal of a tooth and later on ulcers were found in her mouth which resulted in the removal of her lower jaw. Amelia died of a haemorrhage and her death shook all the radium girls they all thought her death is connected to radium but the owners were reluctant to accept this and assured these girls that radium is completely safe.

After, Amelia’s death many of the workers started getting the same symptoms. In 1925 a pathologist confirmed that these girls are at high risk of radium poisoning due to radium exposure in their biological system. Even after these reports came out the owners of the company continued denying this fact.


In 1927, the company was sued by the radium girls in court and in 1928 finally, the court had finally found Radium Dial Co. guilty. The radium girls had changed the history of the USA being the first to reform against health and safety at workplace and employees and they were the pioneer for the creation of the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration.