Radium Girls, 1917-1935
Radium was all the rage. A glowing radium watch was a must-have item. In factories, young women painted face dials with radioactive material. Unaware that the paint was harmful, they would place the brush tip on their lips to achieve a fine point.
After suffering from radium poisoning, several young women sued their employers and brought national attention to the safety of workers. These young women helped create new laws to protect all workers.
These watches became popular with American soldiers, who used them to tell time in darkness. The soldiers made these watches fashionable when they returned to the United States.
The method of pointing the brush with the lips was taught us, to give the brush an exceedingly fine point.
Though we all feel that someone should have warned us. None of us knew that paint paste was dangerous....We were only girls, 15,17, and 19 years old.
And it hurts to smile, but I still smile.