Play Recounts Story Of Radium Dial Company Workers

Sep 25, 2017

The “Radium Girls” were a group of young women who, nearly a century ago, unknowingly put their lives at risk working in factories where they painted watch faces with radium.

Now, a production by the Department of Theater and Dance at WKU, explores their story and how they sought justice in a play called “These Shining Lives”.

“This actually took place in a few different places; there were a few different companies, this is the story of the women in Ottawa, Illinois who were able to successfully sue the company and help change laws in terms of worker protection,” said Dr. Michelle Dvoskin, assistant professor for WKU's department of theater and dance. 

“First of all, it feels very timely in a lot of ways," said Dvoskin. "It’s asking questions about what people can do even in kind of terrible circumstances to make things a little better going forward. Questions about human life versus corporate profit, things like that.”

Sabrina Sieg, a senior at WKU, plays Catherine Donahue, the play's main character. 

Sean Diaz and Sabrina Sieg in 'These Shining Lives'
Credit Karly Caldwell

“She is confident and funny, I think," said Sieg. "She’s a very spunky woman. She knows what she wants and she’s not afraid to do the right thing to get it.”

Sieg calls Donahue "strong and mighty" which she says is powerful in today's world. 

“I think it’s incredibly important that this is a real story that we are telling and I think it’s so important that people know this part of history and they know these women’s stories.”

Junior Sean Diaz plays Donahue's husband in the play, Tom.  He calls it a "powerful and moving story."

“This is a minority group, this is women back in the [19]20s they had barely even just gotten the right to vote and barely gotten the right to work," said Diaz. "And to do things that were basically seen as impossible to go up against the big corporations and these men in charge and show them that they were wrong is just something that’s so powerful and so inspiring regardless of your gender or race. It’s something that I can stand behind and I think a lot people can as well.”

The play continues this week at the Russell H. Miller Theater, FAC at WKU with shows at 8:00 central Monday and Tuesday night. Tickets are available here