Today I have the great pleasure of hosting Samantha Wilcoxson, author of many Tudor/Plantagenet novels, trying her hand at something different, as we follow her on her journey into the world of injustice. Samantha’s blog tour visits PAULA’S PEOPLE to talk about her latest novel, Luminous, in which she tells us what happened to the Ottawa dial painters at Radium, the company that destroyed their lives unnecessarily. Take it away, Samantha.
Paula, thank you for welcoming me to your blog to celebrate my new novel. I was inspired to write about Catherine Donohue after reading about her in Kate Moore’s book, The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women. I was astounded by the tragic history of the women who worked with radium, and I wanted to take a closer look at what it would have been like to live this history.
Catherine was nineteen when she started working as a dial painter using the radium infused paint at Radium Dial in Ottawa, Illinois. Women counted themselves lucky to obtain a job there for the high wages and relatively pleasant working conditions. They wouldn’t realize until years later that the material they were using every day was slowly poisoning them.
Once the women understood what was happening to them, they were faced with the fact that few were willing to help. The radium industry denied liability. Doctors were reluctant to label radium as a poison when they had been using it as a medicine. Legally, they had little or no protection or path of receiving compensation. Therefore, small-town girl Catherine Donohue decided to stand up for herself and her friends to make a change.
In this excerpt, Catherine’s friend, Peg, admits that she is secretly suffering and does not know the cause.
Excerpt from Luminous: The Story of a Radium Girl by Samantha Wilcoxson
It was not until they broke for lunch that Catherine had the opportunity to tell Peg that she had brought enough to share.
“That’s too kind of you, Catherine, but I couldn’t take advantage.”
“You wouldn’t be,” Catherine insisted, thrusting the sandwich into Peg’s hands.
“You don’t understand.”
Peg’s voice was quiet, her words oddly slurred. Catherine realized that she hadn’t heard Peg speak much lately.
“Then help me understand.” Catherine placed her hands on Peg’s shoulders, gently but firmly. “Tell me what is wrong. Let me help you.”
Peg sighed and gave in, gesturing for Catherine to follow her into the tiny bathroom shared by all the dial painters. Once they were snugly closed inside, Catherine examined Peg’s face and saw her own concern mirrored there.
Peg surprised her by not speaking. Instead, she opened her mouth wide and pulled at the side of her mouth for Catherine to see inside.
“Oh, Peg! How in the world?”
“They just fell out,” Peg whispered.
Having seen the inside of Peg’s mouth, understanding flowed over Catherine. Her friend wasn’t avoiding food and conversation because of money problems. She must be in constant pain from the throbbing, angry abscesses that flared irritably where two of Peg’s teeth should have been.
“You poor thing!” Catherine wrapped her arms around Peg, which was easy to do in their close quarters. Peg’s shoulder blades and ribs felt sharp. “How long have you been suffering?”
Peg only shook her head as her tears began to fall.
“Oh, shush, love,” Catherine murmured, swaying slightly on her feet. “We will talk about it when you’re ready, and we will find you help.”
“That’s just it,” Peg suddenly cried out. “I’ve been to the dentist. He doesn’t know what could be wrong, and four more of my teeth are loose.”
“Four?” Catherine’s voice was scarcely more than a whisper, and she felt a sliver of fear pierce her heart. What could be wrong?
Universal Amazon Link for Luminous: mybook.to/luminous
Samantha’s Blog: https://samanthawilcoxson.blogspot.com/
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Samantha Wilcoxson is a history enthusiast and avid traveler. Her published works include the Plantagenet Embers series with novels and novellas that explore the Wars of the Roses and early Tudor era. Luminous is her first foray into 20th century American history, but she suspects that it will not be her last. Samantha enjoys exploring the personal side of historic events and creating emotive, inspiring stories.
Samantha thank you for coming on my blog today, its been a pleasure to host you. One of the most poignant things I found in the story was how this could have been so easily avoided. This would never have happened today, and if it had, those giant companies would not have got away with it. They would have been imprisoned for corporate manslaughter. It is so tragic. This is a story that really makes a mark on you, one of those that will stay with you for the rest of your life. With all the injustices going brought to our attention today, we must not lose focus of the fact that this happened to these girls because they were from poor and working class backgrounds and this must never be forgotten that whatever your colour, creed, religion or race, injustice is NOT acceptable.
Thank you, Samantha, once again for highlighting this awful thing that happened in America the 20s and 30s.