"It will put pink cheeks on you."
That is what the managers of Radium Dial in Ottawa, Illinois, told the young women who painted radium on the faces of clock dials in the 1920s and 1930s. Instead, their teeth fell out and their jaws and bones disintegrated. Instead of putting pink in their cheeks, it put the women in their graves.
The company knew the hazards of working with radium, but they took no safety precautions. They lied to the workers and they denied compensation to the victims. To avoid financial liability, Radium Dial closed its doors and reopened a few blocks away as Luminous Processes and continued its deadly work for another forty years.
Radium Dial cared more about the health and profitability of its company than they cared about the health of the women who made the company profitable.
There really was a "Society of the Living Dead," formed by the women who were dying from radium poisoning. Their astounding true story is told here.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR(S)
Jim Ridings was born in Joliet, Illinois. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in journalism from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, with a minor in history. He was a reporter for The Daily Times in Ottawa and The Beacon-News in Aurora. He won more than a dozen awards for investigative reporting at both newspapers, from the Associated Press, United Press International, Copley Press, Illinois Press Association, Northern Illinois Newspaper Association, SDX Society of Professional Journalists and other organizations. Mr. Ridings was presented a Studs Terkel Humanities Service bronze medal from the Illinois Humanities Council in 2006. He was instrumental in getting a state historical marker erected at the site of the former coal mining town of Cardiff, Illinois. Mr. Ridings is the author of twenty-eight books of Illinois history, including Small Justice; Len Small, Governors and Gangsters; Cardiff: Ghost Town on the Prairie; Wild Kankakee; County West: A Sesquicentennial History of Western Kankakee County; The Illustrated History of the Cherry Mine Disaster of 1909; and The Society of the Living Dead: The Illustrated History of the Radium Dial Scandal of Ottawa. Several of his books have won awards from the Illinois State Historical Society.