Important piece of American history from the WWI era

From the Apopka High School Theatre Department

The Apopka High School Theatre Department is pleased to present Radium Girls, November 8th–9th at 7 pm and November 10th at 2 pm.

During World War I, hundreds of young women went to work in clock factories, painting watch dials with luminous radium paint. But after the girls — who literally glowed in the dark after their shifts — began to experience gruesome side effects, they began a race-against-time fight for justice that would forever change US labor laws.

The girls were instructed to slip their paintbrushes between their lips to make a fine point — a practice called lip-pointing.  Every time the girls raised the brushes to their mouths, they swallowed a little of the glowing green paint.

Dialect coach, Ginny Kopf (far right in picture) came to work with the cast of Radium Girls at Apopka High School. 

In 1922, one of Grace’s colleagues, Mollie Maggia, had to quit the studio because she was sick. She didn’t know what was wrong with her. The trouble had started with an aching tooth.  She died at the age of 24.  As if by clockwork, one by one, Mollie’s former colleagues soon followed her to the grave.

The young women’s employer, United States Radium Corporation (USRC), denied any responsibility for the deaths.  USRC finally commissioned an expert to look into the rumored link between the dial-painting profession and the women’s deaths. The expert confirmed the link between the radium and the women’s illnesses, but the president of the firm was outraged. Instead of accepting the findings, he paid for new studies that published the opposite conclusion; he also lied to the Department of Labor, which had begun investigating, about the verdict of the original report.

Despite the radium industry’s attempts to discredit the expert’s pioneering work, it hadn’t reckoned with the courage and tenacity of the radium girls themselves. They started banding together to fight against the injustice.  It was Grace Fryer who led their fight.  Eventually, in 1927, a smart young lawyer named Raymond Berry accepted their case, and Grace (along with four colleagues) found herself at the center of an internationally famous courtroom drama. By now, however, time was running out: The women had been given just four months to live, and the company seemed intent on dragging out the legal proceedings. As a consequence, Grace and her friends were forced to settle out of court — but they had raised the profile of radium poisoning, just as Grace had planned.  (The Forgotten Story of the Radium Girls, Whose Deaths Saved Thousands of Workers’ Lives, BuzzFeed, Kate Moore, May 5, 2017)

D.W. Gregory has told the story of these brave women in her play, Radium Girls.

For more information or tickets, contact Tickets are $7 General Admission / $10 for preferred seating.

We look forward to seeing you at the theatre for this important piece of American history.


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