The ‘Radium Girls’ literally glowed from their work—and then it started killing them

Women painting alarm clock faces with radium in 1932, Ingersoll factory, January 1932. Workers would often lick the paintbrush to achieve a finer point — directly ingesting the radium. (Daily Herald Archive/SSPL/Getty Images)

At factories like the Radium Luminous Materials Corporation on Third Street in Newark, young women like 14-year-old Katherine Schaub passed their days with tiny paintbrushes in their mouths. Beside each girl sat a small dish of radium powder, which she mixed with a few drops of water and adhesive. The combination made a luminescent…

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