Theater Piece Teaches NYC School Students the History of Female Factory Workers Who Contracted Radiation Poisoning

NYU Steinhardt’s Program in Educational Theatre will present Radium Girls, a production exploring one of the biggest labor scandals of America’s early 20th century, from March 1 to 10.

The show tells the dark story of female factory workers who contracted radiation poisoning from painting watch dials with luminous paint and is accompanied by learning resources to help New York City school students and teachers grapple with this history.

Radium made waves across the country when it was discovered in the late 1800s—and became a key ingredient in everything from toothpaste to cosmetics—and was mixed with paint to create popular glow-in-the-dark watches. The female factory workers painting these watches were perceived to have glamorous jobs, given the high wages and luminous sheen left on clothes and hair from radioactive dust. That was, until thousands of factory workers began developing fatal illnesses.

Radium Girls by DW Gregory is inspired by the true story of Grace Fryer, a dial painter, as she battles the U.S Radium Corporation, her former employer, and family and friends. The NYU Steinhardt production is accompanied by a series of pre- and post-show activities for use in school classrooms to help students better understand the work being shown, process their experiences, and demonstrate achievement towards the New York State Learning Standards for the Arts.

“Theater is great for bringing history to life and connecting with current events. Radium Girls has enduring and resonant themes, including the ongoing fight between people and large corporations, the denial of truth through cover-ups, and the role of the media in shaping public perceptions,” said David Montgomery, director of the Program in Educational Theatre and the show’s director.

NYU Steinhardt’s production of Radium Girls runs Friday, March 1 at 8 p.m., Saturday, March 2 at 8 p.m., Sunday March 3 at 3 p.m., Thursday, March 7 at 8 p.m., Friday, March 8 at 8 p.m., Saturday, March 9 at 8 p.m., and Sunday March 10 at 3 p.m. at the Provincetown Playhouse, 133 Macdougal Street. Tickets are $15 general admission and $5 for students, seniors, and NYU faculty. For tickets, contact NYU Box Office at tickets.nyu.edu, call 212.998.4941, or visit in person at 566 LaGuardia Pl (at Washington Square South).

About the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development (@nyusteinhardt)
Located in the heart of Greenwich Village, NYU’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development prepares students for careers in the arts, education, health, media, and psychology. Since its founding in 1890, the Steinhardt School's mission has been to expand human capacity through public service, global collaboration, research, scholarship, and practice. To learn more about NYU Steinhardt, visit steinhardt.nyu.edu.