It’s about time: Ra­dium Girls

Pasatiempo - - RANDOM ACTS -

When they were first in­vented for mil­i­tary use in the early 20th cen­tury, glow-in-thedark watch faces were made lu­mi­nous with ra­dium-based paint, ap­plied by fe­male fac­tory work­ers in plants around the United States. The women were told to keep their camel-hair paint­brush tips sharp by lick­ing them into a point, and be­cause they were as­sured that the paint was safe, they even used it as nail pol­ish and amused them­selves by paint­ing their teeth with it. Un­be­knownst to them, chemists who made the paint knew of its dan­gers and wore pro­tec­tion when han­dling it. Var­i­ous women de­vel­oped ane­mia, necro­sis of the jaw, and bone frac­tures — all signs of ra­di­a­tion poi­son­ing. Led by Grace Fryer, a group of fac­tory work­ers spent 10 years bat­tling the man­u­fac­tur­ing com­pany, U.S. Ra­dium, in court. The out­come of their case led to a worker’s right to sue an em­ployer if he or she con­tracts an oc­cu­pa­tional ill­ness. In 1999 D.W. Gre­gory wrote Ra­dium Girls, a play about the sen­sa­tional court case, which is pre­sented by the New Mex­ico School for the Arts theater depart­ment at the James A. Lit­tle Theater (New Mex­ico School for the Deaf, 1060 Cer­ril­los Road) at 7 p.m. on Fri­day, Jan. 30, and Satur­day, Jan. 31. The pro­duc­tion is di­rected by Deb­o­rah Pot­ter. Tick­ets cost $10 for adults and $5 for stu­dents and se­niors. Visit www.nm­school­fort­hearts.org/tick­ets. — Jen­nifer Levin

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