They made sure it was safe. It was not long before they began to lose their teeth. Who were the “Radian girls”?


  1. Radium is a radioactive element discovered by Maria Skłodowska-Curie and her husband Pierre Curie.

  2. In the second decade of the twentieth century, the United States produced fluorescent watches coated with radium.

  3. Several thousand young women worked in production and paid for their labor with their lives

  4. More such stories can be found on the Onet.pl home page

Although the work of decorating the faces of watches was well paid for, the losses and dangers suffered by the Rad girls, employees of the American factory of luminescent watches in the 19th century, did nothing to compensate.

Before starting work, employers ensured that the element did not pose a health risk, of course, it was just a false package.and the healing properties of the element made it one of the most widely used additives among others. cosmetics, dyes, carbonated water, jars or medicines.

Thousands of young women died as a result of close contact with radium particles.

Why were tips used to decorate watches?

Radium is a radioactive element discovered by several famous scientists – Maria Skłodowska-Curie and her husband Pierre Curie. The scientific discovery was made on December 21, 1898. Shortly afterwards, the element was called “medicine” and began to be used in the manufacture of many products and products that we use every day, including watches. In addition to the alleged anti-cancer properties, radium has impressed with other properties. The dust of the element caused the clothes and hair of women who painted the faces of watches to shine. For this reason, radium has found another application – it was used, among others, for the production of toothpastes.

Luminescent watches have become a completely desirable item. Radium-coated dials and numbers shone in the dark, making the wristband accessories more prestigious and, above all, modern gadgets.


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The watches, decorated with fluorescent dyes made of radium and zinc sulfide by the girls of Radium, sometimes required painting other than traditional work by hand. It was even used to cover the hard-to-reach elements of the mouth, so the harmful chemical element affected the body in different ways. What are the consequences for girls and people who work with this radioactive substance on a daily basis?

Radium girls and their tragedy

It is estimated that after the First World War, the group of girls who decorated watches was four thousand women. The job was especially attractive because it was much higher than salaries in the United States at the time. The use of lips to spread the paint evenly, and then licking the brushes to quickly clean them, also caused damage to the element, which is dangerous to health.

The first diseases reported by American factory workers were toothache and jaw pain. Soon the disease was accompanied by tooth loss, after which it was necessary to remove individual parts of the face and muscles. Another example of a thousand scary stories is the case of Amelia “Molly” Maggia, who works for the Radium Corporation of the United States in New Jersey. After the extraction of several teeth that could not function normally, Molly began to suffer from purulent and bleeding wounds that formed in the cavities of the extracted teeth. The young woman died in 1923 after many hardships, pains and sufferings. When asked about the cause of death, doctors said it was syphilis. This was the first death of an American factory worker caused by radiation as a direct cause.

It should be noted that the then inventor of deadly radium, Nobel Laureate Maria Sklodowska-Curie died of radiation sickness – aplastic anemia. In turn, the daughter of a Polish-French scientist left for leukemia.

The results of the struggles and battles of the Soviet girls

For a long time, the cause of death of women working on decorating watches with radium dyes was not related to radiation. The Radium Corporation of the United States itself has denied that the element is harmful and has a negative impact on the health of workers. The leap occurred in 1925 with the announcement of the results of a study by pathologist Harrison Martland. The man proved that the direct cause of death of many women was constant contact with radioactive elements.


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Since then, the council girls have struggled to stop work and endanger the health of other factory workers. Many of them lived for weeks or months. The court representative who represented all the injured women was Raymond Berry.

The lawsuit did not end until 1938 with the case of Catherine Wolfe Donohue, who was already dying. The end result of the girls ‘council’s terrible struggle and efforts was to bring the consequences of deadly threats to workers’ health to employers and to establish the American Occupational Health and Safety Administration. At that time, the issue of employee protection became one of the most important issues.

See also:


  1. Sławojki, or the Prime Minister’s hygiene training and toilet construction

  2. The doctors gave him a few days to live. He showed them how wrong they were

  3. Prof. Piotr Albrecht: An incurable esophageal cancer caused by a 16-year-old boy swallowing a needle at the age of 2

  4. Stockholm syndrome. Executioner’s love

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