100 books like The Radium Girls

By Kate Moore,

Here are 100 books that The Radium Girls fans have personally recommended if you like The Radium Girls. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race

Shohini Ghose Author Of Her Space, Her Time: How Trailblazing Women Scientists Decoded the Hidden Universe

From my list on amazing women scientists who will inspire you.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a curious optimist, which means I want to know how the universe works and use that knowledge to imagine and build a better future. That’s why I chose a career as a physicist. Along the way, I learned about the marvelous laws that govern our universe, but I also discovered the many unsung women who played a huge role in uncovering those laws. I love to share the inspiring stories of women scientists who persisted in the face of many challenges in fields dominated by men. I think they too were curious optimists.

Shohini's book list on amazing women scientists who will inspire you

Shohini Ghose Why did Shohini love this book?

As a physicist and a woman of color, Hidden Figures was absolutely unforgettable for me because it was the first book I read that celebrated women scientists of color.

This wonderful account of the remarkable African-American women who broke through societal and racial barriers and played critical roles at NASA during the space race, transformed the way I thought about the history of science. Interlacing history with personal narratives, Shetterly powerfully brings these women to life.

Not only does the book draw these long-forgotten women out of the shadows, but it also shines a light on the biases and challenges they faced which still persist today. This is a must-read for anyone interested in science, history, and achievement in the face of adversity.

By Margot Lee Shetterly,

Why should I read it?

9 authors picked Hidden Figures as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Soon to be a major motion picture starring Golden Globe-winner Taraji P. Henson and Academy Award-winners Octavia Spencer and Kevin Costner Set against the backdrop of the Jim Crow South and the civil rights movement, the never-before-told true story of NASA's African-American female mathematicians who played a crucial role in America's space program-and whose contributions have been unheralded, until now. Before John Glenn orbited the Earth or Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, a group of professionals worked as "Human Computers," calculating the flight paths that would enable these historic achievements. Among these were a coterie of bright, talented African-American…


Book cover of The Business of Beauty: Gender and the Body in Modern London

Lucy Jane Santos Author Of Half Lives: The Unlikely History of Radium

From my list on jobs for women in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a writer interested in the odd areas where science and consumerism touch – particularly where this intersects with women workers. My debut book Half Lives: The Unlikely History of Radium tells the history of radioactivity through the eyes of the people who made, bought, and sold products laced with radium in the 20th century. The follow-up title will explore the deadly element Uranium.

Lucy's book list on jobs for women in the late 19th and early 20th centuries

Lucy Jane Santos Why did Lucy love this book?

Am starting with a tiny cheat as this book isn’t just about women – although it is about the beauty industry which is usually associated with women. What this book is -however – is an exploration about the history of beauty, consumption and gender in Victorian and Edwardian London. It is packed with stories of women beauty salon owners like Sarah “Madame” Rachel Leverson, Helen Rubinstein and Anna Ruppert. I’ve been working on a book that features Anna Rupert and Clark’s book has been an invaluable resource and a great in depth study on the subject.

By Jessica P. Clark,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Business of Beauty as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Business of Beauty is a unique exploration of the history of beauty, consumption, and business in Victorian and Edwardian London. Illuminating national and cultural contingencies specific to London as a global metropolis, it makes an important intervention by challenging the view of those who-like their historical contemporaries-perceive the 19th and early 20th centuries as devoid of beauty praxis, let alone a commercial beauty culture.

Contrary to this perception, The Business of Beauty reveals that Victorian and Edwardian women and men developed a number of tacit strategies to transform their looks including the purchase of new goods and services from…


Book cover of Radiant: The Dancer, the Scientist, and a Friendship Forged in Light

Lucy Jane Santos Author Of Half Lives: The Unlikely History of Radium

From my list on jobs for women in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a writer interested in the odd areas where science and consumerism touch – particularly where this intersects with women workers. My debut book Half Lives: The Unlikely History of Radium tells the history of radioactivity through the eyes of the people who made, bought, and sold products laced with radium in the 20th century. The follow-up title will explore the deadly element Uranium.

Lucy's book list on jobs for women in the late 19th and early 20th centuries

Lucy Jane Santos Why did Lucy love this book?

This fantastic creative non fiction book tells the story of two unlikely friends – the dancer Loïe Fuller and the scientist Marie Curie. Through my research for Half Lives I have read a lot about both of these women – Marie Curie isolated the element and Loïe Fuller developed a fascination with it as she wanted to incorporate its glow in the dark properties into her stage costumes. Heinecke does an amazing job of bringing the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries alive with this book and shines a light on two fascinating women pioneers.

By Liz Heinecke,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Radiant as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Part hidden history, part love letter to creative innovation, this is the "imaginative and immersive" (The Star Tribune) true story of an unlikely friendship between a dancer, Loie Fuller, and a scientist, Marie Curie, brought together by an illuminating discovery.
 

At the turn of the century, Paris was a hotbed of creativity. Technology boomed, delivering to the world electric light, the automobile, and new ways to treat disease, while imagination blossomed, creating Art Nouveau, motion pictures, and modernist literature. A pivotal figure during this time, yet largely forgotten today, Loie Fuller was an American performance artist who became a living…


Book cover of A Lab of One's Own: Science and Suffrage in the First World War

Kersten T. Hall Author Of The Man in the Monkeynut Coat: William Astbury and How Wool Wove a Forgotten Road to the Double-Helix

From my list on to think differently about the history of science.

Why am I passionate about this?

The discovery of the structure of DNA, the genetic material was one of the biggest milestones in science–but few people realise that a crucial unsung hero in this story was the humble wool fibre. But the Covid pandemic has changed all that and as a result we’ve all become acutely away of both the impact of science on our lives and our need to be more informed about it. Having long ago hung up my white coat and swapped the lab for the library to be a historian of science, I think we need a more honest, authentic understanding of scientific progress rather than the over-simplified accounts so often found in textbooks. 

Kersten's book list on to think differently about the history of science

Kersten T. Hall Why did Kersten love this book?

When, in the course of my research for my book, I first came across a newspaper article from 1939 reporting on the work of physicist Florence Bell with the stunned headline "Woman Scientist Explains," I think it took me about 5 minutes to recover from laughing. It’s a pity that the local press were more interested in the fact that Bell was a woman rather than her actual science, because only a year earlier she had shown for the first time how X-rays could reveal the regular, ordered structure of DNA. And as an undergraduate of Girton College, Cambridge, Bell’s talents as a physicist should have come as no surprise. For as historian Patricia Fara shows, Girton and the other all-female college, Newnham, were both intellectual crucibles from which emerged a generation of distinguished scientists such as physicist Hertha Ayrton, campaigning chemists Ida Smedley and Martha Whiteley, to name but…

By Patricia Fara,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked A Lab of One's Own as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

2018 marked a double centenary: peace was declared in war-wracked Europe, and women won the vote after decades of struggle. A Lab of One's Own commemorates both anniversaries by revealing the untold lives of female scientists, doctors, and engineers who undertook endeavours normally reserved for men. It tells fascinating and extraordinary stories featuring initiative, determination, and isolation, set against a backdrop of war, prejudice, and disease.
Patricia Fara investigates the enterprising careers of these pioneering women and their impact on science, medicine, and the First World War.

Suffrage campaigners aligned themselves with scientific and technological progress. Defying protests about their…


Book cover of Mrs. P's Journey: The Remarkable Story of the Woman Who Created the A-Z Map

Lucy Jane Santos Author Of Half Lives: The Unlikely History of Radium

From my list on jobs for women in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a writer interested in the odd areas where science and consumerism touch – particularly where this intersects with women workers. My debut book Half Lives: The Unlikely History of Radium tells the history of radioactivity through the eyes of the people who made, bought, and sold products laced with radium in the 20th century. The follow-up title will explore the deadly element Uranium.

Lucy's book list on jobs for women in the late 19th and early 20th centuries

Lucy Jane Santos Why did Lucy love this book?

This is the true story of Phyllis Pearsall who (amongst other adventures in a remarkable life that was also filled with personal tragedy) decided to chart and map the geographical districts of London – a project which eventually tuned into the A-Z map. Over a year Pearsall walked 23,000 London streets to achieve this remarkable feat and set up the Geographers’ Map Company. Pearsall is complex and flawed and Hartley wasn’t always able to separate fact from the fiction (Mrs P was a wonderful storyteller but sometimes contradicted herself). Ultimately Hartley concludes ‘If there is a scene, or a word, or a character, you believe to be too fantastical, it is likely they are real.’ Mrs P did have an extraordinary life.

By Sarah Hartley,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Mrs. P's Journey as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

MRS P'S JOURNEY is the enchanting story of Phyllis Pearsall. Born Phyllis Isobella Gross, her lifelong nickname was PIG. The artist daughter of a flamboyant Hungarian Jewish immigrant, and an Irish Italian mother, her bizarre and often traumatic childhood did not restrain her from becoming one of Britain's most intriguing entrepreneurs and self-made millionaires.

After an unsatisfactory marriage, Phyllis, a thirty-year-old divorcee, had to support herself and so became a portrait painter. It is doing this job and trying to find her patron's houses that Phyllis became increasingly frustrated at the lack of proper maps of London. Instead of just…


Book cover of The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic—And How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World

Hannah Wunsch Author Of The Autumn Ghost: How the Battle Against a Polio Epidemic Revolutionized Modern Medical Care

From my list on medical history that reads like fiction.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a critical care doctor, I love pausing when taking care of patients in a modern ICU to reflect on how far we’ve come in the care we can provide. I want to be entertained while learning about the past, and so I seek out books on medical history that find the wonder and the beauty (and the bizarre and chilling) and make it come alive. I get excited when medical history can be shared in a way that isn’t dry, or academic. These books all do that for me and capture some part of that crazy journey through time. 

Hannah's book list on medical history that reads like fiction

Hannah Wunsch Why did Hannah love this book?

The Ghost Map is the fantastic story of an important Cholera epidemic in London in 1854.

The book swept me along with its narrative, plunging straight into the fetid world of Victorian London. Johnson weaves together the stories of the people affected, and the desperate hunt by Dr. John Snow to understand the cause of the disease. He also provides fascinating descriptions of the dangers to life in a time before sewers, and the evolution of such systems that ultimately transformed city life.

I definitely look at toilets, pipes, and sewer grates differently after reading this book.

By Steven Johnson,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Ghost Map as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A National Bestseller, a New York Times Notable Book, and an Entertainment Weekly Best Book of the Year

It's the summer of 1854, and London is just emerging as one of the first modern cities in the world. But lacking the infrastructure-garbage removal, clean water, sewers-necessary to support its rapidly expanding population, the city has become the perfect breeding ground for a terrifying disease no one knows how to cure. As the cholera outbreak takes hold, a physician and a local curate are spurred to action-and ultimately solve the most pressing medical riddle of their time.

In a triumph of…


Book cover of Awakenings

Hannah Wunsch Author Of The Autumn Ghost: How the Battle Against a Polio Epidemic Revolutionized Modern Medical Care

From my list on medical history that reads like fiction.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a critical care doctor, I love pausing when taking care of patients in a modern ICU to reflect on how far we’ve come in the care we can provide. I want to be entertained while learning about the past, and so I seek out books on medical history that find the wonder and the beauty (and the bizarre and chilling) and make it come alive. I get excited when medical history can be shared in a way that isn’t dry, or academic. These books all do that for me and capture some part of that crazy journey through time. 

Hannah's book list on medical history that reads like fiction

Hannah Wunsch Why did Hannah love this book?

Awakenings is the novel-length true story of the patients comatose for decades from sleeping-sickness, a disease that reared its head in the 1920s and then died out.

I consider Oliver Sacks the master storyteller of medical mysteries, and he kept me completely riveted with his descriptions of watching these patients wake up when given the drug L-Dopa, re-entering the world after many decades. The story gives me chills every time I think about it.

By Oliver Sacks,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Awakenings as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'The story of a disease that plunged its victims into a prison of viscous time, and the drug that catapulted them out of it' - Guardian

Hailed as a medical classic, and the subject of a major feature film as well as radio and stage plays and various TV documentaries, Awakenings by Oliver Sacks is the extraordinary account of a group of twenty patients.

Rendered catatonic by the sleeping-sickness epidemic that swept the world just after the First World War, all twenty had spent forty years in hospital: motionless and speechless; aware of the world around them, but exhibiting no…


Book cover of Radium Girls: Women and Industrial Health Reform, 1910-1935

Samantha Wilcoxson Author Of Luminous: The Story of a Radium Girl

From my list on Radium Girls.

Why am I passionate about this?

When I decided to write about Catherine Donohue, I searched for everything I could find about her, which was surprisingly little. I traveled to Ottawa, Illinois to read her letters held at a local historical society, and I connected with the son of her attorney, who has kindly uploaded his father’s old newspaper clippings onto the internet. The story of America’s Radium Girls is a tragic warning about where greed and corruption can lead, but it is also a story about courage, faith, and perseverance. It is a privilege to be a part of increasing awareness of their fate. After all, HERstory is history, too.

Samantha's book list on Radium Girls

Samantha Wilcoxson Why did Samantha love this book?

Once I decided to write about America’s Radium Girls, this book provided the scientific background and legal progression of the radium industry. It helped me understand how the tragedy began innocently with scientists believing radium improved health. Yet, when they realized the ill effects, it was difficult to convince big businesses to let go of the profits they were earning. This is a more academic read but is very informative for those who want to dig deeper.

By Claudia Clark,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Radium Girls as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the early twentieth century, a group of women workers hired to apply luminous paint to watch faces and instrument dials found themselves among the first victims of radium poisoning. Claudia Clark's book tells the compelling story of these women, who at first had no idea that the tedious task of dialpainting was any different from the other factory jobs available to them. But after repeated exposure to the radium-laced paint, they began to develop mysterious, often fatal illnesses that they traced to conditions in the workplace. Their fight to have their symptoms recognized as an industrial disease represents an…


Book cover of Deadly Glow: The Radium Dial Worker Tragedy

Samantha Wilcoxson Author Of Luminous: The Story of a Radium Girl

From my list on Radium Girls.

Why am I passionate about this?

When I decided to write about Catherine Donohue, I searched for everything I could find about her, which was surprisingly little. I traveled to Ottawa, Illinois to read her letters held at a local historical society, and I connected with the son of her attorney, who has kindly uploaded his father’s old newspaper clippings onto the internet. The story of America’s Radium Girls is a tragic warning about where greed and corruption can lead, but it is also a story about courage, faith, and perseverance. It is a privilege to be a part of increasing awareness of their fate. After all, HERstory is history, too.

Samantha's book list on Radium Girls

Samantha Wilcoxson Why did Samantha love this book?

This book also digs deeper into the science behind radium, the realization that radium poisoning was occurring, and how it impacted the scientific community. Radium poisoning was difficult to discover and diagnose for many reasons, beginning with the initial belief that radium improved one’s health. Once symptoms began to occur in women using radium on a daily basis, their health problems were varied and inconsistent. This book also discusses how the study of radium improved health standards for handling other radioactive substances.

By Ross Mullner,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Deadly Glow as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Deadly Glow is the important story of a public health tragedy. It chronicles the lives of young women who worked in radium application plants in the early 1900s painting numerals on instrument and watch dials. From their experience, the harmful effects of radium deposited in the body became known.

The victims suffered from skin ulcerations, tumors and other severe medical symptoms. Physicians were baffled and misdiagnosed their conditions as heart disease and even syphilis. Solving the intriguing mystery of the workers' disabling, yet unknown, disease would be a complex and difficult task requiring brilliant detective work of several investigators. In…


Book cover of Marking Time: The Radium Girls of Ottawa

Samantha Wilcoxson Author Of Luminous: The Story of a Radium Girl

From my list on Radium Girls.

Why am I passionate about this?

When I decided to write about Catherine Donohue, I searched for everything I could find about her, which was surprisingly little. I traveled to Ottawa, Illinois to read her letters held at a local historical society, and I connected with the son of her attorney, who has kindly uploaded his father’s old newspaper clippings onto the internet. The story of America’s Radium Girls is a tragic warning about where greed and corruption can lead, but it is also a story about courage, faith, and perseverance. It is a privilege to be a part of increasing awareness of their fate. After all, HERstory is history, too.

Samantha's book list on Radium Girls

Samantha Wilcoxson Why did Samantha love this book?

A short, locally published selection, this book specifically tells the story of the women of Ottawa, Illinois, who worked at Radium Dial and Luminous Processes. It includes useful local insight and many photos. At 70 pages, the reader can get a great summary of the events without committing to a long non-fiction read.

By Heinz Dietrich Suppan,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Marking Time as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Doomed Legions of Ottawa. . .At the turn of the 20th Century radium became a miracle cure for almost any ailment and was advertised in several European nations. When radium was introduced into the United States it achieved a similar popularity. After World War I several companies decided to use radium to paint watch dials, a fad that resulted in the manufacture of luminous dials, and successful sales of wrist watches, pocket watches and alarm clocks. When a luminous dial processing company opened in Ottawa, Illinois, it offered great employment opportunities to many young girls who were paid very…


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