‘Radium Girls’ tells the story of women who fought for safer working conditions in the 1920s
It’s a story that many New Jersey residents may not be familiar with – the story of young women in the 1920s who were sickened by factory conditions in the Garden State.
Their story is being told in a new film that will be shown in New Jersey theaters and on virtual platforms.
“Radium Girls” tells the true-life story of a group of women who worked in a clock factory in New Jersey painting glow-in-the-dark clock dials with radium paint. Some of the workers became sick and discovered that the paint was poisoning them.
Writer-director Ginny Mohler was working as a documentary researcher when she stumbled upon the story of the real-life radium girls who suffered catastrophic illness and death.
“I felt like it just grabbed on to me,” she says. “Workers, A) worked with radioactive paint and thought it was safe, and B) when they got sick and were pointed, the company denied having the science that showed it was dangerous.”
The “Radium Girls” plot revolves around two sisters working in the factory who rise up and sue the company.
“It felt incredibly cinematic to tell the story through the eyes of these two teenage girls,” says producer-director Lydia Dean Pilcher.
Pilcher says that she was drawn to the story of women fighting for justice.
“It was the Wild West of industrialization. It was a new pioneering era in our country’s history. There was no regulation,” Pilcher says. “When the Radium Girls came forward and actually said they were willing to stand up, there was a whole host of women ready to lift them up on their shoulders and that's an amazing part of the story."
The real women in the story won a settlement against United States Radium Corporation. The property of the former factory, located in Orange, became a Superfund site.
“Radium Girls” will screen at the Cranford Theater Drive-in on Tuesday. It will also be shown at the Basie Cinema in Red Bank starting on Thursday.