Radium Girls radiates confidence


Natalie Guarino, Staffer

On January 21, women all around the world took a stand for their rights. The International Women’s March spoke up for better legislation and reforms centering on women’s rights. Such an impactful and strong show of protest was a unique experience for millions of people across the world.

100 years ago women were fighting for similar rights. In the 1920s, female factory workers contracted radiation poisoning from painting watch faces with paint containing radium. They decided to fight back, and in a series of lawsuits fought for reparations for their suffering, even as they died from radiation poisoning.

The new little theatre play, “Radium Girls,” focuses on one of these girls, Grace Fry. Based on a true story, the play follows Grace’s struggles to confront authority, stand up for herself, and fight the company that wronged her.

Throughout the show Grace breaks free of the expectations society and those around her put on her. It is why junior Julie Cozette, who plays Grace, sees her as “dynamic.”

“You can see, throughout the show, her arc of becoming tougher despite the juxtaposition of her body becoming weaker,” Cozette said.

Senior Patti Meadors, another lead actor, appreciates how the show highlights the unique struggle women faced in the 20th century. “This show has a real life circumstance of women in olden times that are incredibly strong and fight for what they believe in while keeping up this feminine ideal.”

Throughout their ordeal, Grace and her fellow workers faced adversity from everyone they met. “These young women are often tried to be taken advantage of or simply ignored because their serious problems are viewed as cries for attention,” Cozette says. “But these women continued to persevere to fight for justice all while dying from radiation poisoning.”

Overcoming societal expectations and restrictions women faced are a core part of what all those involved in “Radium Girls” hope the audience takes away. Linda Burns, OPRF teacher and the director, sees where the message of the show is still relevant for women today. “It’s important to see now for many reasons. It brings a lot of awareness that our society still doesn’t empower women,” said Burns.

The struggle to be taken seriously by authority figures and society at large continues to plague women. “It shows how difficult it is for women to stand up for themselves because even today they can seen as harsh,” Burns said.

Cozette concurs with Burns.  “I do think that women face a lot of the same prejudice in that we are not taken seriously when we ask for things, and eventually stop asking,” said Cozette. “That’s why I admire Grace, because she doesn’t stop.”

Meadors thinks the boxes Grace is put in are still an issue today. “Her conflict is still a problem today for men and women. Women have these ideals where they have to be pretty and wear stilettos even at work,” said Meadors. “Once you realize men and women all have boxes they’re constricted by the world will be better.”

The actors in “Radium Girls” also see a strong woman behind the scenes. Cozette and Meadors have both worked with Burns previously and love her positive force in the theatre department. Cozette sees Burns as a great director because of how much she can relate to the actors. “She’s so laid back and laughs with us when we’re goofing around which is really nice because we goof around constantly,” said Cozette.

Meadors thinks Burns and Grace share similar attributes. “I love (Burns), she’s so smart. She embodies a super strong female role model,” Meadors says. “I couldn’t think of a better person to do this show. Having lowerclassmen girls work with her and see her work is so important.”

These are strong as hell, badass women and i’m honored to play one of them,” said Cozete.

“Radium Girls” opens May 12, and runs May 13, 18 and 19.