Radium Girls

Movie Trailer: ‘Radium Girls’ Shines A Light On The Story Of The Radium Girls

Based on the real-life tragedies of the women who painted early watch dials with self-luminous paint, Radium Girls promises to shine a light on a dark corner of America’s horological past. 

By Watchonista

In the 1920s, numerous court battles were raged against watch-dial companies. These suits were brought by dying dial painters, aka Radium Girls. The cases were strikingly similar to the ones waged decades later against big tobacco. Moreover, by the time the United States Supreme Court declined to hear the employers' final appeal, the Radium Girls had changed the course of history for both the labor rights movement and the research on radioactivity.

Radium Girls History

To better understand the events surrounding Radium Girls, the movie, and the impact of the Radium Girls in the real world, a little history lesson is in order.

Beginning in 1917, United States Radium produced luminous watch dials at three factories for soldiers fighting in World War I. Located in New Jersey, Illinois, and Connecticut, the painting was done by women called dial painters. And needing a fine brush tip, each facility instructed the women to "point" their brushes on their lips or tongue.

Told the radium-based paint (called Undark) was harmless, dial painters followed their employers' instructions. Some dial painters even used it as a kind of tooth and nail polish. Sadly, this lie led many of the dial painters to ingest lethal amounts of radium. Now we know radium is extremely dangerous, but U.S. Radium knew it then.

While these women handled radium without any safety equipment, the company's owners and scientists took numerous safety precautions to avoid exposure to the deadly element. Furthermore, despite telling the dial painters the paint was harmless, U.S. Radium secretly distributed literature to the medical community describing the "injurious effects" of radium.

Finally, as their female employees began to suffer from anemia, hair loss, and necrosis of the jaw (aka radium jaw), U.S. Radium and other watch-dial companies waged disinformation campaigns. Rejecting the workers' claims of toxic paint, the companies urged doctors and dentists to attribute dial painters' deaths to syphilis or other medical causes.

The Radium Girls Movie

The events from this notorious chapter in American horology, along with the ensuing court battles, serve as the backdrop for Radium Girls.

Recently interviewed by Deadline about their directorial debuts, Oscar-nominated producer Lydia Dean Pilcher and filmmaker Ginny Mohler said, “At its heart, the Radium Girls’ story is an inspiration for people everywhere to question the facts we take for granted."

Radium Girls Trailer

Already the winner of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Feature Film Award for its portrayal of this pivotal moment in the study of radioactivity, Radium Girls will open at New York's Quad Cinema on April 3rd followed by a national rollout.

Check out the trailer below!

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