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A New Album of Goth-Folks Songs Impressed by the Lifetime of Marie Curie


After a number of years of writing and performing songs influenced by such sources as authors Edward Gorey and Raymond Chandler, filmmaker Tim Burton, and homicide ballads within the American people custom, Ellia Bisker and Jeffrey Morris, identified collectively as Charming Catastrophe, started casting round for a single, present narrative that would maintain an album’s price of unique tunes.

An encounter with Lauren Redniss’s graphic novel Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie: A Story of Love and Fallout spurred them to look extra deeply on the Nobel Prize-winning scientist and her pioneering discoveries.

The result’s Our Woman of Radium, a 9 music exploration of Curie’s life and work.

The crowdfunded album, recorded throughout the pandemic, is so exhaustively researched that the accompanying illustrated booklet features a bibliography with titles starting from David I. Harvie’s technically dense Lethal Sunshine: The Historical past and Deadly Legacy of Radium to Deborah Blum’s The Poisoner’s Handbook, described by The New York Observer as “a vicious, page-turning story that reads extra like Raymond Chandler than Madame Curie.”

A chapter within the The Poisoner’s Handbook launched Bisker and Morris to the Radium Women, younger employees whose extended publicity to radium-based paint in early Twentieth-century clock factories had horrific penalties.

In La Porte v. United States Radium Company (1935) prosecutors detailed the circumstances beneath which the luminous dials of cheap watch faces had been produced:

Every lady procured a tray containing twenty-four watch dials and the fabric for use to color the numerals upon them in order that they would seem luminous. The fabric was a powder, of concerning the consistency of beauty powder, and consisted of phosphorescent zinc sulphide blended with radium sulphate…The powder was poured from the vial right into a small porcelain crucible, concerning the dimension of a thimble. A amount of gum arabic, as an adhesive, and a thinner of water had been then added, and this was stirred with a small glass rod till a paintlike substance resulted. In the midst of a working week every lady painted the dials contained on twenty-two to forty-four such trays, relying upon the pace with which she labored, and used a vial of powder for every tray. When the paint-like substance was produced a woman would make use of it in portray the figures on a watch dial. There have been fourteen numerals, the determine six being omitted. Within the portray every lady used a really tremendous brush of camel’s hair containing about thirty hairs. So as to receive the tremendous strains which the work required, a woman would place the bristles in her mouth, and by the motion of her tongue and lips carry the bristles to a tremendous level. The comb was then dipped into the paint, the figures painted upon the dial till extra paint was required or till the paint on the comb dried and hardened, when the comb was dipped right into a small crucible of water. This water remained within the crucible with out change for a day or maybe two days. The comb would then be repointed within the mouth and dipped into the paint and even repointed in such method after being dipped into the paint itself, in a steady course of.

The band discovered themselves haunted by the Radium Women’ story:

Partly it’s that it appeared like a very good job — it was clear work, it was much less bodily taxing and paid higher than manufacturing facility or mill jobs, the working surroundings was good — and the employees had been all younger girls. They had been enthusiastic about this candy gig, after which it betrayed them, poisoning them and slicing their lives quick in a horrible approach. 

There have been all these particulars we realized that we couldn’t cease desirous about. Like the truth that radium will get taken up by bone, which then begins to disintegrate as a result of radium isn’t as onerous as calcium. The Radium Women’ jaw bones had been crumbling away, as a result of they (had been instructed) to make use of their lips to level the brushes when portray watch faces with radium-based paint. 

The radium they absorbed was irradiating them from inside, from inside their very own bones. 

Radium decays into radon, and it was ultimately found that the radium ladies had been exhaling radon fuel. They may expose a photographic plate by respiratory on it. These photographs—the bones and the breath—caught with us particularly.

Fellow musician, Omer Gal, of the “theatrical freak people musical menagerie” Cookie Tongue, heightens the sense of dread in his chilling stop-motion animation for Our Woman of Radium’s first music video, above. There’s no query {that a} tragic destiny awaits the crumbling, uncomprehending little employee.

Earlier than their bodily signs began to manifest, the Radium Women believed what they’d been instructed — that the radium-based paint they used on the timepieces’ faces and fingers posed no risk to their effectively being.

Compounding the issue, the paint’s glow-in-the-dark properties proved irresistible to high-spirited teenagers, because the niece of Margaret “Peg” Looney — 17 when she began work on the Illinois Radium Dial Firm (now a Superfund Website) — recounted to NPR:

I can keep in mind my household speaking about my aunt bringing house the little vials (of radium paint.) They might go into their bed room with the lights off and paint their fingernails, their eyelids, their lips after which they’d giggle at one another as a result of they glowed at midnight.

Looney died at 24, having suffered from anemia, debilitating hip ache, and the lack of enamel and bits of her jaw. Though her household harbored suspicions as to the reason for her bewildering decline, no lawyer would take their case. They later realized that the Illinois Radium Dial Firm had organized for medical assessments to be carried out on employees, with out in truth advising them of the outcomes.

Ultimately, the mounting dying toll made the connection between employees’ well being and the office not possible to disregard. Lawsuits reminiscent of La Porte v. United States Radium Company led to improved industrial security laws and different labor reforms.

Too late, Charming Catastrophe notes, for the Radium Women themselves:

(Our music) Radium Women is devoted to the younger girls who had been unwittingly poisoned by their work and who had been ignored and maligned in in search of justice. Their plight led to legal guidelines and safeguards that ultimately grew to become the occupational security protections we now have as we speak. After all that’s nonetheless a battle that’s being fought, however it began with them. We needed to pay tribute to those younger girls, honor their reminiscence, and provides them a voice.  

Preorder Charming Catastrophe’s Our Woman of Radium right here.

Associated Content material: 

Marie Curie’s Analysis Papers Are Nonetheless Radioactive 100+ Years Later

An Animated Introduction to the Life & Work of Marie Curie, the First Feminine Nobel Laureate

Marie Curie Turned the First Girl to Win a Nobel Prize, the First Individual to Win Twice, and the Solely Individual in Historical past to Win in Two Completely different Sciences

Ayun Halliday is the Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine and creator, most not too long ago, of Inventive, Not Well-known: The Small Potato Manifesto.  Comply with her @AyunHalliday.



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