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.

Radium Watch, 1910s–1930s

Estate of W. Carl Wyatt

View object record
Radium Watch, 1910s-1930s

Radium Watch, 1910s-1930s

Estate of W. Carl Wyatt

View object record

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.

—Katherine Schaub, April 1928

New Haven Tip Top Traveler Alarm Clock, 1910s–1920s

Gift of New Haven Clock Company

View object record
Advertisement for X-Ray Alarm Clock, 1921–1922

Advertisement for X-Ray Alarm Clock, 1921–1922

Courtesy of Archives and Special Collections, University of Connecticut Library

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.

—Katherine Schaub, May 1928

And it hurts to smile, but I still smile.

—Grace Fryer, April 1928