By March Twisdale
Kate Moore is an award-winning, New York Times bestselling author of “The Radium Girls.” A British writer based in London, she has published numerous Sunday Times bestsellers, writing across various genres including history, biography, true crime, and humor; her work has been translated into more than 12 languages. The Radium Girls was the winner of the 2017 GoodReads Choice Award for Best History/Biography, and was named a Book of the Year by National Public Radio, Barnes & Noble, and BookBub. It was my pleasure and honor to interview her that year on my radio show: Prose, Poetry & Purpose.
Since then, Kate has gone on to write another amazing book about perseverance in the face of seemingly impossible odds. The Woman They Could Not Silence: The Shocking Story of a Woman Who Dared to Fight Back, as reviewed on the author’s website:
“1860: As the clash between the states rolls slowly to a boil, Elizabeth Packard, housewife and mother of six, is facing her own battle. The enemy sits across the table and sleeps in the next room. Her husband of 21 years is plotting against her because he feels increasingly threatened – by Elizabeth’s intellect, independence, and unwillingness to stifle her own thoughts. So Theophilus makes a plan to put his wife back in her place. One summer morning, he has her committed to an insane asylum.
The horrific conditions inside the Illinois State Hospital in Jacksonville, Illinois, are overseen by Dr. Andrew McFarland, a man who will prove to be even more dangerous to Elizabeth than her traitorous husband. But most disturbing is that Elizabeth is not the only sane woman confined to the institution. There are many rational women on her ward who tell the same story: they’ve been committed not because they need medical treatment, but to keep them in line – conveniently labeled “crazy” so their voices are ignored.”
Both of these books bring us face-to-face with reality. Human beings with unchecked power cannot be trusted. They fall victim to temptation far too often, or they stand aside and do nothing – the infamous “bystander effect.” The abuse of the individual is not “nothing.” It is everything, because it is the abuse of the whole, one piece at a time.
Planet Earth is structured around predator and prey. We humans are prey to only one species. Our own.
Recognizing our predatory nature is the first step. To staying alive, protecting one’s children, protecting oneself from rape, avoiding becoming a kidnapping victim while on vacation, the list goes on … including not falling victim to the mind controls and manipulations utilized by totalitarian-style regimes, or the seemingly inevitable collusion between predatory institutions.
These two books, by Kate Moore, do not paint a fictional image. They are not dystopia. They elucidate fact and bring harsh reality into focus. With 20/20 vision, Kate Moore shows us what happened then, so that we might see more clearly today.
Executive-produced by Lily Tomlin, Radium Girls (the movie) was released in late 2020. The epilogue states that radium was used to paint luminous clocks until the 1970s, that the judge who negotiated the settlement was a stockholder in “American Radium,” that the Radium Girls case impacted labor law in the United States, and that if you place a Geiger counter over the grave of a Radium Girl, it will click for more than a thousand years.