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tv   National History Day - The Glowing Girls The Triumph Tragedy of the...  CSPAN  August 11, 2019 11:35pm-11:51pm EDT

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elected. how is he elected? all of those black people took part in the great migration. they went from mississippi and the other southern states north. in to thea northerner congress. >> you can watch this and other american history programs on our web site where all of our video is our dived. that is than 500,000 students competed at the local level of national history day. just 3000 advance to the finals at the university of maryland. the theme in 2019 was triumph and tragedy. categories include exhibit,
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website, paper, and performance. up next, a 10 minute performance by three middle school students. >> this is "glowing girls: triumph and tragedy of the radium women." >> i will be playing grace briar. >> i will be playing catherine hsu. >> my name is making, and i was a radium girl. i'm here to tell you the story of how my coworkers, some of my closest friends passed away from radium poisoning. in 1913, radium paint was commercially produced in america for the first time. a year later, u.s. radium corporation was founded in orange, new jersey. they began producing radium paints and radium parts for american businesses. during world war i, 95% of radio
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was being used for military purposes, but a small amount was being made into fashionable products such as shampoo, facial cosmetics, clothes, watches. it was even being added to water. the popularity of radium began to spread all over america because of a scientist named to -- because of a polish scientist named marie curie, who discovered radium onto summer 21st, 1889, while working with radioactive elements in pursuit of a doctorate degree. both marie and her husband pierre experimented with radiological effects, they experimented to discover new uses for the element. from 1922 to 1923the united states is prominent in theworld radium market, producing 80% of the world's radium. radium companies began to spread all over america. the one i am going to talk about today is the rand corporation. after world war i, factories needed more workers due to all the men in war so they began to hire young women. this is where our story begins in the early 1920's with my fellow coworkers from the u.s. radium corporation. grace briar and catherine hsu. >> from the moment we worked at
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the u.s. radium corporation, we were asked to lick our paintbrushes to make the tips fit on the dials. radium was being used in warships, airplanes, compasses, and watches. soon, almost every american soldier had a radium dial watch. each night when you came home, we noticed a strange glow coming from our clothes and mouse. mouths. it was magical at first. we had never had something that could just glow-in-the-dark by itself. after we made the discovery, as marie curie said, the scientific history of radium is beautiful. >> at the time we did not realize the consequences our actions would have. people began to develop symptoms. marie curie talked about the
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element. she decided to visit a dentist who began treating her. she continued to have pain. >> we never questioned that it was not true just because it was written she had died from the disease. after her death, a second woman
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.ied we decided to take up our concern with the vice president of the association at the time. after molly's death, a second woman named irene rudolph died from the effects of the job. after that, we began to think it was more than extreme dental issues, so we decided to take our concerns to the vice president of u.s. radium corporation at the time, who agreed to bring in a doctor to examine the women and our work area. the doctor employed physician alice hamilton, who happened to be the president of the national consumer league, and they examine all the women who worked with radium. the doctor wanted to report about our unsafe work conditions. the conclusion to us seemed inevitable. that the radium paint is associated with dust and the dust must necessarily contain radium. after dr. drinker found out that the corporation had falsified reports, he published his own reports. >> we only saw the revised version of the report, but they continued our work painting dials until a journal was published that contained the term radium job. the article stated the
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history of this particular patient is so evident thatthere is practically no doubt in my mind of the responsibility of the u.s. radium corporation. unfortunately we may not be able to find out what chemicals they are using painting radium on the dials. during the fall of1923 there was a case somewhat similar to necrosis, caused by a substance used in the manufacture of watches. the condition has been termed termed radium jaw. >> after the article was written, more doctors began discovering other symptoms associated with ingesting radium such as anemia, cataracts, bone cancer, skincancer. ovarian cancer and hollowed out bones. over 600 women became sick. even i did, and so did grace. >> i found four other women who were also experiencing symptoms of radium poisoning and were
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willing to fight. along with our attorney who was convinced by the natural consumers league to join us. >> i was not with the women during their court appearance because i ended up in fired for not following orders to lick the paintbrushes. in the end, this helped spare me from illness the girls were getting sick with or dying from. >> may 18, 1927, i went to court. the settlement awarded us $10,000 each and $600 per year until our deaths by the u.s. radium corporation. our attorney told us when you're going to die and there is no hope, every newspaper you pick up amounts to your obituary. there's nothing else.
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>> even though radium poisoning had taken over our physical health, we worked to show the effects of radium on our bodies. i could not even stand. i cannot even take the oath. grace had to wear a brace on her back. >> two other women also sued the u.s. radium corporation. they won their battles as well. catherine donahue was supposed to be given $5,600 for damages, but ended up being awarded twice the amount of money from her employer, giving her $10,000. >> i died at the age of 34 from ovarian cancer. even after the settlement was given to my family and the families of other victims, it could never replace what we lost. we suffered so much damage like cancer, mutilation of cells, and infertility.
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the factory was torn down in 1968. nothing stands there but a tile of contaminated rubble, which will be at way for the next 1600 years. >> february 18, 1933, i died of radium poisoning. the tragedy is one of the reasons why the occupation of safety and health administration, also known as osha, and the illinois occupational disease operation, that corporation was created by alice hamilton. she was one of the first physicians to believe in us and our story. even the fair labor centers act in 1938 was passed. children 14 through 17 are legally allowed to work but cannot work in areas that are hazardous to their health or welfare according to this law. because i was only 14 when i began working with radium, another act was passed called the osha act of 1970, allowing factory workers to file complaints against their employers and request inspections from osha. safety companies like the new jersey department of labor and
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safety acts like these are part of our triumphs. thanks to the men and women who worked with dangerous chemicals. >> although my death was not directly caused by radium poisoning, throughout my life, i suffered from colon cancer, lung cancer, and losing all my teeth by my 30's. we persevered through employers denying our claims, lord is refusing to take our case, and -- lawyers refusing to take our case, and many doctors misdiagnosing it. >> we represent the women who fought corporations and won. >> we represent the women who helped make a change in workers rights. >> we are the radium women. [applause] >> can you tell me your names. >> i am olivia van linker and i play may king. >> i'm bethany madden and i play grace fryer. >> i am carolyn van linker and i
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play catherine hsu. >> >> so, radium girls, how did you come up with that? >> actually, i got it from a family member who saw it on facebook. so we did further research into our project and felt it was a great fit for this year's topic. >> as you did your research, what were your thoughts? was it surprising to you? >> what was most apprising for me was when you found out these women were being ignored. they were being pushed down and not being believed that they were dying from radium. men were believed and when men were getting sick, they started to be more concerned. they were like ok, the men are getting hurt, now we need to be worried, because they trusted men and not the women. >> it was also because they were so naive, too. they started at 14, and they never realized this is hurting me because they even believe -- i even learned there were some doctors who were paid to tell them they were fine. because the girls were naive, they believed them and kept working because it gave them good pay. >> how hard was it to write this into a 10-minute performance?
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what was that process like? >> it was very hard. we had to do a lot of narrowing down and cutting of information that we really did want to add, but we just kept the most important parts of our story. >> we wanted to make it more realistic and make it part of a play but not so fantasized that people were not getting to the point that this was a real-life event and really happening. >> where are you from? tell me about your school? >> we are from ralston, nebraska. i'm an eighth grader going into my freshman year. they are seventh grader's going into their eighth grade year. i was the first performance in ralston to ever happen and i advanced to state. and they joined this year. >> she said she was doing a performance, and i thought that was super cool. we have both done some sort of theater. so has bethany. we all worked together, and i think it helped balance out.
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>> finally, why do you think it is important for people your age to know about the radium girls? >> i personally think it is important because when you think about it, these women did not really have much of a say, but as you go about learning them, you realize everybody has a voice. everybody has a right to say what they want to say and nobody should be defiled down to someone they are not. >> i'm going to add onto that. it also shows that, like, little people can do big things. a lot of people might say i'm just 14 and cannot do anything about it, but these women were very young. they were in their early 20's and they fought against a whole corporation for worker endangerment. >> without this cause-and-effect situation, i would say, because because of the situation that
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happened with the dangers and -- in their working area, it led to all these labor laws and safety acts that protect us now. without this and these women standing up for themselves and proving all those people wrong, we would not have the safety laws that we have today. >> thank you all very much. >> thank you. with 1979 a small network an unusual name viewers makeup their own minds. bringing you unfiltered content from congress and beyond. a lot has changed in 40 years. online, c-spannd is your unfiltered view of government. brought to you by your cable or satellite provider. productcan history tv are now available at the c-span online story. go to to see what's new for american history tv and check out all of the c-span products.
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>> manhattan college professor adam aronson talks about his research project examining the lives of slaves who escaped to canada and what factors motivated them to stay or return to the united states during the reconstruction era. this interview was recorded at the organization of american historians annual meeting in philadelphia. >> the title of your paper here at the meeting, "crossing the border after the underground railroad, african north americans returning from canada." so people heard about the underground railroad, but why were slaves trying to escape to canada and how were they able to do that? >> the underground railroad was


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