Radium Girls: A Conversation with Author Kate Moore

HOUSTON  – The Southwest Center for Occupational and Environmental Health (SWCOEH) at UTHealth School of Public Health in Houston and the Southwest Center for Agricultural Health, Injury Prevention and Education at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler recently hosted Kate Moore, the author of The New York Times bestselling book The Radium Girls.
Attended by 90 various faculty, students, trainees and staff across UT institutions and the Texas Medical Center; the event, subtitled "Recognition of the American women from the Roaring Twenties who were poisoned by their work and courageously fought for justice” was one of a series of activities commemorating the 40 th Anniversary of the SWCOEH.
The event started with opening remarks by Jeffrey L. Levin, M.D., M.S.P.H., a professor in the Department of Occupational and Environmental Health Sciences, senior vice president for academic affairs and provost at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler. He provided background and relevance for inviting Moore to interact with an occupational health audience for whom this story holds many powerful lessons.
9W5A3359-cropArch “Chip” Carson M.D., Ph.D., director of the Occupational and Environment Medicine Residency Program at UTHealth School of Public Health SWCOEH moderated the interview session with Moore, who began with an excerpt from her book in which she vividly describes one of the characters prior to working in the Radium Dial company as a vivacious, energetic young woman, effectively setting the scene for the tragedy that is to come. She also reviewed why this story is so important for contemporary audiences. How seriously management views the health concerns of its workforce, preconceived biases concerning class and gender, and the effective power of the radium girls’ grassroots advocacy are all issues that researchers in the field of occupational medicine contend with in today’s society.
Carson questioned Moore about how she first came to write about the topic and what was important about it. She responded that she first came to know the story of the radium girls through a play that was produced and performed in Connecticut about a small subset of the girls who had lived and worked there. She thought it was an interesting story and was stimulated to find out more about it. She noted that, although none of the girls survived, she was able to contact people who had known them or had useful information pertaining to the story. Moore had found letters and documents in museum archives and family records, as well. As she learned more about the courage and perseverance of the workers,despite their relatively powerless position in the socioeconomic class of the day, she felt that it was imperative that their story be told.
The session concluded in Levin awarding a plaque to Moore from the Texas Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (TIOSH®), THe plaque recognizes Moore's journalistic contribution to the field. The event ended with the author inscribing and signing copies of her book.
This event was sponsored by the Southwest Center for Occupational and Environmental Health, a CDC/NIOSH Education and Research Center at UTHealth School of Public Health, the Southwest Center for Agricultural Health, Injury Prevention and Education , a CDC/NIOSH Agricultural Health and Safety Center at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler and the Texas Institute of Occupational Safety and Health® at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler.
Written by Ruth Akinlosotu , MPH Candidate and SWCOEH Graduate Research Assistant, SWCOEH.CE@uth.tmc.edu
Event photos by Shannon LaDuke, Communications Manager Shannon.LaDuke@uth.tmc.edu