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Fairbanks Children’s Theater Academy XX. It shows the women workers of the early 19th century factory this weekend

Fairbanks Children’s Theater Academy XX.  It shows the women workers of the early 19th century factory this weekend

FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) – bright radio glow.

What was once thought to be a medical remedy and a “dark” benefit to night vision, its glowing appearance was later shown to have deadly consequences.

Radium Girls, a true story of the tragedies and triumphs of early 20th-century female factory workers, comes to life this weekend in a performance hosted by the Fairbanks Academy of Children’s Theatre.

Amber Shepard plays Irene Rudolph and Katherine Wiley in the play. He said it is not uncommon for actors to play multiple roles. “My character is dial painter Irene Rudolph,” said Shepard. “He worked at the plant with others like Grace Fryer and Katherine Schaub, and was one of the people who got sick and died very early from radium poisoning.”

In the early 1920s, the US Radium Corporation, originally called the Radium Luminous Material Corporation, extracted and purified radium from the mineral carnotite to produce luminous paints. More information about this deadly profession can be found on the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health website.

While the men were away at war, women and girls were exposed to radium in the 1920s while painting their clocks with bright paint. Three factories stood out in the history books; one in Orange, New Jersey, another in Ottawa (Illinois) and finally, in Waterbury (Connecticut). Workers were told the paint was harmless and many ingested the substance, as well as painted their nails, faces and teeth.

“Well, the 1920s, you know, science, not as advanced as it is today,” Shepard added. And so the radius shines in the dark. So they made that paint and painted the clocks with that bright paint so that the soldiers could read it in the dark.’

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This true story reveals the truth about radiation exposure and illness that many girls who worked in factories saw first hand. Women used their mouths to point the tip of the brush. In an excerpt from “Radium Victim Battles Death With Courage” written by Florence L. Pfalzgray with the Orange, NJ Daily Courier, April 30, 1928, Fryer said, “Our teachers told us to point with our lips,” he said. he said “I think I pointed mine with my lips about six times to each tick of the clock. It was not funny. It didn’t have any taste, and I didn’t know it was harmful.’

“It’s a true story and these are all real people from the show that we play, that existed and are trying to take their case to court and get justice for what happened to them,” said Kylie Haas, who plays Grace Fryer.

Grace Fryer, who grew up in Orange, New Jersey, worked in a factory. Without giving away too much of the play, just know that in 1927 he plays a prominent role in bringing the lawsuit against the Radium Corporation of the United States.

“She worked with radium adhesive paint that she had been exposed to for years and she got really sick,” said Kylie Haas, who plays Grace Fryer in this adaptation of Radium Girls. “So he formally decided to file a lawsuit against the company he worked for and get compensation for what he had to do after he left the factory.”

It is the history that Radium Girls brings to the stage that led to proper workplace safety measures and the labor rights and laws that were put in place to protect those who worked in these facilities.

“The statute of limitations for being women and being brushed under the rug and existing labor laws only lasted two years,” Shepard said. “But they were discovering these problems years after they left, so they were dying at a rapid rate, but there was no way to get the compensation they needed.”

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This show provides transparency into the world of these women, along with a history lesson for those who act out and participate in the experience.

Kylie Haas said she had never heard of it until she read the Radium Girls script, after which she wanted to know more, so she did her own research.

“I love history and I love researching women especially in history, so it was really fun to research and learn,” Haas said. “Not only did I read the script, but I researched everything I could about Grace Fryer, who was new and really fun to meet.”

She said she hopes everyone will learn about these historic women and how they changed the way workers today have basic rights.

“I hope it takes people away from the appreciation of the labor laws that we have in place today and makes people think that there’s always more to be done and hopefully more than anything, it encourages people to look at these women and find out what they did to get those labor laws in place,” Haas said.

Asked if he could say anything to Fryer now, Haas replied, “I would say thank you. And I would say that I’m very sorry that I had to go through so much and that it took so long for my rights to be violated.”

“I hope you see how hard these women had to work to be heard,” Shepard said. “I think that being a woman today, I kind of take it for granted how often my voice is heard and how people can see me. It’s very empowering, it fills you with that feeling of gratitude.”

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Performances will be held at West Valley High School’s Performing Arts Center from Friday, November 4th through November 6th.

Tickets and more information about the performance are available here Fairbanks Children’s Theater Academy website

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