Kate Moore, author of Radium Girls, talks books, history and questioning authority

Kate Moore's nonfiction narrative "The Radium Girls" is being published in paperback this month. (Photo by Duncan Moore)
Kate Moore's nonfiction narrative "The Radium Girls" is being published in paperback this month. (Photo by Duncan Moore)
Published March 7 2018
Updated March 9 2018


Kate Moore

A few years ago, Moore directed the play These Shining Lives by Melanie Marnich in London. Itís based on four American women who worked at the Radium Dial watch factory in Illinois in the 1920s and í30s. As Moore researched, she realized that, although the tragic fate of these young women was ultimately reported in the news, nothing on their personal stories had been written. The result, Mooreís nonfiction narrative The Radium Girls, is being published in paperback this month. It explores the lives of the women, who eagerly took well-paying jobs in watch factories not realizing, as they followed company procedure to "lip, dip and paint,íí that they were poisoning themselves with radium. We Skyped with the author from her home in London on Feb. 28. Describing her approach to the project, Moore, 37, said, "I traveled to the U.S., to where the girls were from, where they grew up. I went to New Jersey, to Orange, to Newark. I went to Illinois. I went to Chicago, to where the womenís court cases were heard. ... I wanted to write a story in a way that could be read by (people of all ages), and I wanted to give the women each a voice.íí

Whatís on your nightstand?

The Power by Naomi Alderman. It is incredible. It is a feminist utopia. It imagines what would happen if the women had the power. The book has had great success in the U.K.

What was it that hit the mark?

It was thought provoking and took on a broad concept. It imagines a particular world. It diverts your normal gender expectations. I think both men and women should read it.

What scene stood out?

A scene of a male rape. It was a powerful scene.

Although itís about different times and situations, Radium Girls draws parallels to 2018 and the misuse of power. Would you like to comment?

I hope the story demonstrates that those in authority donít always have the best interest of individuals at heart. I think it demonstrates that even ordinary people can make a difference. I think it is a timely reminder and warning of what can happen if you donít see why regulations are necessary. Above all, I hope it is an inspiring story, because these girls in their lifetime were shunned and disbelieved and continued to speak against authority. When there is injustice, speak out for your rights.

Contact Piper Castillo at [email protected]