Author to speak at DeKalb Public Library about the radium girls of Ottawa, Illinois

Kate Moore

On Friday, May 12, from noon to 1 p.m., author Kate Moore will speak at the DeKalb Public Library about her book The Radium Girls, which shares the fascinating and forgotten history of the Radium Dial Company workers of northern Illinois. The event is sponsored by NIU STEM Read and the DeKalb Public Library and is free and open to the public.

The Radium Girls is the first narrative non-fiction book about the American women of the early 20th century who were employed to paint watch and clock faces with luminous radium paint – and who were poisoned in the process.

Taught to “lip point,” the women used their lips to shape their brushes into fine points, thus ingesting the radium-based paint, which also covered their hands and clothes. Their managers assured the radium girls that the paint was safe, but when they began to fall ill of radiation poisoning they had to join together to fight for their legal rights and their lives.

Using archives and interviews with surviving relatives, Moore tells the story of these New Jersey and Ottawa, Illinois, women, and their battle for labor safety standards and workers’ rights. “I wanted to bring to life the individual women and make them real: not just anonymous ‘radium girls’, but real women with personalities, passions and loved ones,” says Moore. Moore is a UK-based Sunday Times bestselling author who has written more than 15 books in various genres.

“This is such a fascinating and heart-wrenching story,” says Gillian King-Cargile, Director of STEM Read. “Kate Moore ties in the history of the region with the history of science, commerce, labor law and women’s rights. She is a wonderful researcher and storyteller. We’re so excited to bring her to DeKalb Public Library.”

Books will be available for purchase, and all profits will support STEM Read’s community programs. Participants are invited to bring a lunch.

For additional information, contact Gillian King-Cargile at gkingcargile@niu.edu.

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