Radium Girls

Isn’t it scary to think that someone could keep a huge secret from you, a secret so big that it could potentially kill you and hundreds of other people? This happened in the 1920’s and changed many people’s lives forever. Today, I’m going to share with you something that had a big effect not only as u as a country but us as the Illinois Valley. My topic is the Radium Girls of Ottawa. This is a topic that I know much about; I did my 8th grade history fair project on this, read a few books about it, and even interviewed two of the radium girls.
My three main points will be what the radium dial company was, who the living dead girls were, and the after effects of this tragedy. My first point is the Radium Dial company, according to the book Deadly Glow, in 1922 the radium dial company moved from Peru Il, to Ottawa and hired hundreds of girls to paint the dials of WWI and WWII clock faces. The paint used was called luna that contained radium to make the watch glow in the dark.
To get the dials perfect the girls were told to wet the tip of the brush with their lips. Their boss failed to mention that radium can cause anything from cancer anemia, bone fractures and necrosis of the jaw, known as radium jaw. Their boss knew about the dangers but told them it would only make their cheeks rosy. Unaware of the dangers the girls would paint their teeth, nails, skin, and hair and turn off the lights so they could glow. This brings me to my second main point, who were the society of the living dead?

According to the book Radium Girls, after a year the girls started to complain about jaw pains and their teeth started to fall out. They demanded to be seen by doctors, only to be lied to about not having radium in them and they were perfectly healthy. The doctors who saw them knew they had radium in them, but didn’t tell them. This started their group “the society of the living dead” the girls were filing for unsafe working conditions. Catherine Donohue was the leader and she was one of the girls who were affected the most.
Even through her illness she still won the case that granted all the girls $10,000 to split amongst themselves and all their medical bills were paid. Some of the girls benefited from the case, but money could never heal their mental and eternal illness. The death toll in Ottawa was 35, and 4,000 nation. My third and final point is the aftermath of the case. In my interview with June Menne and Pauline Fuller in October of 2010 both who worked for the radium dial company at this time shared a little information on just how things hanged. Even though a lot of the young girls died before they reached thirty, this tragedy changed lasws that ban people form working hands on with deadly chemicals and right to sue corporations for labor abuse. The building was torn down in 1969. The governor then appointed 2 million dollars to clean up the radium. This tragedy is still affecting Ottawa today, there was a test in 2007 for radium detection and to this day it is still scattered in Ottawa. Thankfully there have been no other cases of anything like this.
It just shows that something bad has to happen before things will change. On September 2, 2011 a statue was put up of a girl holding a wilted tulip in one hand and a paintbrush in another to remember the tragedy. Thank you for listening to my speech on the radium girls. I hope you learned my three main points which were what was the Radium Dial Company, who the society of the living dead was and what the effects of this case had on our nation. Any questions?

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