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Archive for September 6th, 2021

Could Small Still Be Beautiful?

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Bryce T. Bauer has an interesting article in Craftsmanship magazine. The article’s blurb:

In the mid-1970s, an economist named E.F. Schumacher argued that our push for endless growth was doomed to fail. His book, “Small Is Beautiful,” soon became a classic, inspiring a generation of idealists. While largely forgotten since then, Schumacher’s ideas might speak to the working class’s troubles today more than ever.

The article begins:

1. “Economics as a Form of Brain Damage”
2. The Schumacher Center For a New Economics
3. The New Economics of Land Ownership
4. The New Economics of Business Financing
5. The New Economics of Currency
6. The New Economics of Entrepreneurship
7. Challenges to the New Economy

Four decades ago, just as some of the forces that have caused today’s problems with globalization and inequality began to take hold, a British economist by the name of E.F. Schumacher took America by storm with a set of contrary ideas about how an economy should work.

Schumacher aimed squarely at supporting everyday people and the communities where they lived. For a brief period in the mid-1970s, his name enjoyed headline status — and his book, “Small Is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered,” joined a pantheon of powerful, call-to-action works of the time. Schumacher’s book was taken so seriously that, a few years after its publication, it was listed alongside such enduring critiques as Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” and Paul R. Ehrlich’s “The Population Bomb.”

While “Small Is Beautiful” hasn’t endured with quite the same power those works have enjoyed, its ideas have still seeped into the thinking of some of the nation’s latter-day acolytes of social and environmental sustainability, including Wendell Berry, Jane Jacobs, and Bill McKibben. Schumacher’s work also inspired a small think-tank focused on turning the small towns and bucolic countryside of the Massachusetts Berkshires into a laboratory for further exploration of his theories.

Given how rarely Schumacher’s once-popular ideas are discussed today, one can’t help but wonder—were his perceptions all wrong? Or, as the director of the institute focused on sustaining his ideas, and as Schumacher himself also said, was their time yet to come? If the latter, might that time be now? Every day, it seems, more and more experts join the argument that the accelerating dominance of global companies — in a world struggling with income inequality, resource depletion, and the growing ravages of climate change — has put us on an unsustainable path. If that bleak outlook is correct, maybe it’s time to give Schumacher’s ideas a second look.


When “Small Is Beautiful” came out, in 1973, Schumacher had already worked for several decades as an economist. In the years after its publication, he toured the United States speaking to crowds across the country and meeting with political leaders, including an address before 50 members of Congress and a meeting with President Jimmy Carter. At the time, America was being wrenched by many of the ills he said modern economics would cause. The 1970s was a decade marked by oil and gas shocks, labor unrest and stagflation, a growing concern over the environment, and the discord of the Vietnam War. Schumacher was attuned to what it all portended. (In fact, the first use of the term “global warming” occurred just two years after Schumacher’s book was published.) Schumacher wrote “we do well to ask why it is that all these terms — pollution, environment, ecology, etc. — have so suddenly come into prominence…is this a sudden fad, a silly fashion, or perhaps a sudden failure of nerve?”

Born in Bonn, Germany, Schumacher had fled Nazi Germany to England in 1937. During the Second World War, when Great Britain began interning Germans, including Jewish refugees, Schumacher and his family moved to the countryside, where he worked on a farm until his writing caught the notice of John Maynard Keynes, the British economist who launched the 20th century’s activist alternative to unfettered, free-market economics.

The core of Schumacher’s argument lay in his book’s subtitle: “Economics as if People Mattered.” For far too long, economists had approached the problem of development in a way that focused too much on goods over people, emphasizing the elimination of labor instead of job creation. He accused these experts of treating consumption as the end itself, always to be maximized.

In Schumacher’s view, the economy would not benefit from the standard methods of stimulation; if anything, it should be de-intensified. If this could be managed, Schumacher believed, it would allow time “for any piece of work — enough to make a really good job of it, to enjoy oneself, to produce real equality, even to make things beautiful.”

The opportunity to work this way — which is central to any artisan or tradesman, and to his or her ability to produce top-notch, innovative work — clearly has only declined further in the years since Schumacher made this observation. And if anything, his critique might be even more timely today. In a new book, “Tightrope: Americans Reaching for Hope,” veteran New York Times journalists Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn argue that the growing scarcity of jobs that offer such visceral satisfactions is part of what’s plunged America’s working class into unprecedented levels of despair, drug addiction, and suicide 

To be truly helpful, Schumacher argued, development funds in poor areas should be spent on “intermediate technology” — that is, technology that’s cheap, resilient, and simple enough to be used by workers in areas that lack access to education, ready capital, and sophisticated infrastructure. Technology that’s too expensive, and too complex to be readily used in developing economies, he said, destroys “the possibilities of self-reliance.” . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

Written by Leisureguy

6 September 2021 at 5:34 pm

Josiah Wedgwood’s life shows the value of mixing business with morality

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Tmiwa Owolade writes in UnHerd:

It is an image of a black man kneeling. His hands are clasped together and chained, his neck upturned. Attached to the image are the words: “Am I not A Man and a Brother?”. Four years after this image was created, a portly doctor from the Midlands called Erasmus Darwin wrote a set of two poems entitled ‘The Botanic Garden’. In one of the poems, these lines feature in a stanza: “The Slave, in chains, on supplicating knee, / Spreads his wide arms, and lifts his eyes to Thee; / With hunger pale, with wounds and toil oppress’d, /’Are we not Brethren?’ sorrow choaks the rest”.

To describe Erasmus Darwin — the grandfather of Charles Darwin and Francis Galton — as simply a doctor would be selling him short. He was a figure the stature of Samuel Johnson. Unlike Johnson, however, he stayed in the Midlands and was transfixed by science. Darwin was a pivotal member of the Lunar Society, that constellation of thinkers who believed in the power of science to improve humanity. Coleridge, his friend and correspondent, described him as “the most original-minded man”.

He was also an abolitionist. The emancipation badge, the medallion with the inscription “Am I Not a Man and a Brother” that inspired Darwin’s verse, was made for the Society for the Abolition of the Slavery. It was the most popular symbol in the fight against the slave trade in the late eighteenth century. And it was created by Darwin’s good friend: Josiah Wedgwood.

Stoke has unfairly acquired the status of a provincial backwater. It is a Brexit city and its football team is a punchline: a foreign player can be good, but he can’t be that good if he can’t do it on a rainy night in Stoke. But Stoke’s most famous son was the emblematic figure of the long eighteenth century. Wedgwood’s work is mentioned in the novels of Austen and the letters of Gibbon. He made ceramics for Catherine the Great and the Georgian Royal Family; his family-surgeon and close friend was Erasmus Darwin; his other friends included Joseph Priestley, the minister and scientist who discovered oxygen.

Tristram Hunt, the director of the Victoria and Albert Museum, and former Labour MP for Stoke-on-Trent Central, has written a fluent and insightful biography of Wedgwood. Near the start of The Radical Potter, Hunt states: “Wedgwood’s marriage of technology and design, retail precision and manufacturing efficiency, transformed forever the production of pottery, and ushered in a mass consumer society”. But what is clear from the biography is that Wedgwood was also responding to the demands of a new consumer society.

By 1700, Britain was behind in terms of ceramic production. Japan and China were masters of exquisite design. British ceramics, by contrast, were crude. Lorenzo de Medici, the most powerful supporter of art in Renaissance Italy, loved Chinese porcelain. And so did Henry VIII. Louis XIV of France adored Chinese porcelain so much he even created a porcelain pavilion for, Hunt writes, “ceramic-themed assignations with his mistress Mme de Montespan”.

However, as Hunt notes, “over the course of the early eighteenth century, the need to substitute Asian and European imports with indigenous manufacture was vital in the development of a mass-market, consumer goods industry”. This need was satisfied by Wedgwood.

The Wedgwood family had been minor potters in North Staffordshire for two centuries before Josiah was born. What made North Staffordshire so useful was the proximity of clay and coal in the environment. Pottery ran through the veins of the family the way clay and coal veined the earth.

Wedgwood developed a leg disability from smallpox when he was 12. This meant he could never be a “thrower”  someone who operates the pedal on the potter’s wheel. Misfortune, was in this case, a stroke of luck. His disability allowed him to instead get stuck in on the more cerebral aspects of the business. “Design, innovation and business were aspects of the pottery trade”, Hunt writes, “to which Wedgwood could devote the attention that he could no longer apply to the thrower’s bench”.

The task of Wedgwood and his business partner Thomas Bentley was, in the words of Hunt, to “see off the attraction of luxury Chinese porcelain, dominate the fast-moving retail market, satiate the insatiable appetite of the middling sort with fashionable products sold at a healthy profit and soak up the emulative spending power of the increasingly taste-conscious Georgian consumer”.

Wedgwood came from a nonconformist religious tradition; he subscribed to political radicalism and popular democracy. His business success was nevertheless beholden to the patronage of the aristocracy. He made a creamware for Princess Charlotte, the wife of King George III “who set the fashion in London”. Hunt emphasises this ideological fissure when he notes that “a luxury product endorsed by high society was thus by far the most effective means for developing a profitable, mass-market commodity and if Thomas Bentley and Josiah Wedgwood were to secure the patronage of the trend-setting nobility they had to jettison their political radicalism, Nonconformist ethos and thirst for democracy”. The fissure, however, would be more brutally exposed by Wedgwood’s entanglement with the transatlantic slave trade.

The demand for ceramics was linked to a demand for other goods in the eighteenth century; porcelain was a pretty appendage to drink and grub. In particular, the period witnessed a tea craze. Tea was imported by the East India Company from China. The Company also imported sugar from slave plantations in the Caribbean. Sugar went from being a luxury product to a “dietary staple”. It was used to make chocolate, jam and treacle. But most importantly it was used to drink tea. 8,000 tons of sugar were imported to Britain in 1663; it was 97,000 by 1775. Britain had developed a sweet tooth.

But it was a sweet tooth that encouraged an industry characterised by savage cruelty. As Adam Hochschild makes clear in his book Bury the Chains: “When slavery ended in the United States, less than half a million slaves imported over the centuries had grown to a population of nearly four million. When it ended in the British West Indies, total slave imports of well over two million left a surviving slave population of only about 670,000”. Wedgwood was complicit in this industry: he exported pottery to slave plantation estates in Barbados and Jamaica. And he personally took commissions from slave-owners. But by the 1780s, he was passionately opposed to the slave trade.

The committee for the abolition of the slave trade was founded in 1787 by William Wilberforce, Thomas Clarkson and Granville Sharp: the Three Musketeers of British Anti-Slavery activism (With Olaudah Equiano as d’Artagnan). Wedgwood was subsequently elected to the committee. During this period, he “wrote impassioned letters, circulated petitions, attended meetings and joined boycotts”.

He also created the emancipation medallion, which was, as Hunt notes, “the dominant motif of anti-slavery activism until illustrations from Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin became prominent in the nineteenth century.

Wedgwood was, so it seems, a bundle of contradictions. Much of his working life was spent trying to negotiate his desire for business success with his concern for social justice. Eric Williams, the Trinidadian statesman and historian, famously argued that the British ended the slave trade for financial rather than moral reasons. For Williams, this is an indictment of Britain. Many people today . . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

Written by Leisureguy

6 September 2021 at 2:31 pm

Red Kale Plus

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The supermarket had extremely fresh red kale in large bunches, so that’s what I’m cooking now. It looks good, and I think I got a nice combo.

• 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
• 1 large red onion, chopped
• 1 1/2 large carrots, diced (1//2 because it was left over from Carrot Cake in a Jar)
• stems from 1 bunch of Lacinato kale (used in yesterday’s soup), chopped small
• good-sized pinch of salt
• cloves from 1 head of Russian red garlic, chopped small
• 1 turmeric root the size of my forefinger, minced
• 10-12 medium domestic white mushrooms, chopped
• 1 lemon, ends cut off and discarded, diced
• 1 big bunch of red kale, stems minced and put in with onion, leaves chopped
• several good dashes fish sauce — about 1 tablespoon
• about 1-2 tablespoons Frank’s Hot Sauce
• about 2 tablespoons freshly ground pepper

The first thing I did was peel and chop the garlic and set it aside to rest, then chop the kale and put it in a large bowl so it also could rest (for 45 minutes). I didn’t cut out the stems, as I had done for the Lacinato kale, but just cut off the part of the stems below the leaves and minced that.

With the garlic and kale resting, I prepared the rest. I put the olive oil in the 6-qt pot. I used the large pot because, before the kale cooked down, it more than filled the pot — I had to add it a little at a time — but as it cooks it wilts, and at the end the pot is not close to full, as you can see in the photo above.

With the oil in the pot, I added the minced Lacinato stems, then diced the carrot and added that, then chopped the onion and added that. I minced the turmeric and put in the bowl where the garlic was resting, and then I chopped the mushrooms by cutting them in half vertically, putting a half on the flat side and slicing it into several pieces. I had a fairly good pile of mushrooms when I was done. 

I diced the lemon and added that to the bowl with the kale — the lemon is for flavoring and also, with the mushrooms, for some liquid.

Once the timer went off, I turned on the burner to 4 and started cooking. The kale stems, carrots, and onion in the pot I cooked for 5-7 minutes, adding a good pinch of salt and stirring frequently. When that seemed to have cooked enough so that the onions were transparent, I added the garlic, turmeric, and mushrooms and cooked thos for several minutes, stirring frequently, until the mushrooms started to give up their liquid.

Then I added the kale and diced lemon — put a handful in the pot, stir it, lifting up what was on the bottom of the pot to put it over the leaves. As the leaves collapsed, I added more. 

About halfway through that, I added the fish sauce, pepper sauce, and ground black pepper. I add pepper toward the end because in a hot pan, pepper can burn and get an off taste. Once there’s liquid in the pot, burn risk is gone. 

I covered the pot, set temperature to 225ºF and timer to 30 minutes, and let it cook. A couple of times I went in to stir and verify that there was still liquid in the pot — I could always add some water if it cooked dry, but there was ample liquid to steam the kale.

Photo above take right after it was done. Colorful, eh? This I will count as Greens, although of course it does include some Other Vegetables.

Written by Leisureguy

6 September 2021 at 12:59 pm

The Idea of Work, From Below

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Joel Suarez writes at JHI Blog:

How capitalism’s recent history is judged depends on where you start in time. From the vantage point of the late 1990s, it was a triumph. Strong wage and GDP growth, rapidly globalizing trade, and, most intoxicatingly, the ascent of new technologies in telecommunications gave many the sense that capital was sending us into a new era of prosperity where, as the saying then went, “rising tides would lift all boats.” As naïve as it sounds now, the progress was real, if uneven and short-lived. The view a decade later, of course, would be quite different. From that standpoint, the late 1990s would rightly be remembered as merely the byproduct of dollar-depreciation and a debt-fueled asset bubble. We overcame that bubble through easy credit and mortgage securitization pumping up an even bigger asset bubble that would wreak havoc worldwide beginning in 2007. Amid the fallout of the financial crisis, the optimism encapsulated by the idea of rising tides disappeared. This was no time for metaphors. Something tangible was needed. The constant refrain then, as now, was: we don’t make stuff anymore.

In one sense, this is undeniable. There is something weightless about production in the now-matured “new economy.” This economy deals in data, “knowledge,” financial instruments and transactions, and promises of frictionless futures by way of apps. Cars and clothes, toys and tablets—these tangible things have seemingly been left for the machines and the global proletariat to produce. It’s an on odd picture of American economic life, one with an abundance of entrepreneurs and consumers, but, apparently, no workers. They belong in the past, the corpse of which can be found dotting abandoned factories across the Midwest. Indeed, by now columns by coastal reporters parachuting into the Rustbelt to encounter survivors of deindustrialization have become a cottage industry. The tales might be overly familiar, but that doesn’t make the reality any less horrid. Deaths by alcoholism, suicide, or drug overdoses in regions plagued by chronic unemployment have produced what was previously unthinkable: declining life expectancy in the world’s wealthiest nation.

Yet despite all this despair, somehow the U.S. is awash with capital. If we don’t make stuff anymore, why? The global currency reserve role of the dollar in the world economy is one answer, of course. The speculative frenzy backstopped by the Federal Reserve—the grim alternative to which appears to be higher interest rates and higher unemployment—is another. But there is some actual investment going on. Where is that money headed and what does it do? Much of it chases liquid assets, seeking quick returns based on value fluctuations, rather than fixed capital that can both employ more people and increase productivity. Relatively little of current capital flows increase the productivity of service sector workers that constitute vast majority of the workforce, particularly in the low wage ranks of the health care, education, hospitality, and retail industries where people do things rather than make them. These colossal industries suffer from low profits, low investment, low wages, and low productivity growth. Their supplanting of the more dynamic manufacturing sector in the U.S. economy goes a long way in explaining the economic stagnation and rising inequality that has cursed the U.S. since the 1970s. But for all the warranted despondency over the shape of American capitalism, in the eyes of much of the world, the U.S. continues to possess the “crown jewel of capitalism” that causes investors to throw mountains of money at sometimes transparently stupid things: Silicon Valley.

+ + +

The allure of the Valley is simple. It thrives on utopianism. With plentiful smarts and massive sums of money, the place relentlessly promotes its capacities to change the world and perhaps even what lies beyond it. The main protagonists of the region’s self-promotion are undoubtedly CEOs and company founders. These are the supposed visionaries that attract billions of investors’ dollars to not just create and sell products but also dreams. Dreams alone, however, are never enough. At some point someone must deliver something real. And that delivery is the product of workers—tech workers and other workers that enable them to do the work that they do. To understand the peculiar style of capitalism that has emerged from the region, it helps to understand not just its ideas and products, but the people that actually make them.

Tech workers certainly “make things.” But the difference between software and steel isn’t just economic. Building cars and steel beams produced particular kinds of culture: the clothes, the bars, the churches, the language, the families, the unions. How do the things tech workers make, in a sense, make them? How do changes in the nature of work change the normative visions of those experiencing them? How does the nature of power in the workplace shape that consciousness of those subjected to and deploying it?

A recent rich literature on technology and work—popular, academic, and somewhere in-between—has wrestled with these questions. Those like . . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

Written by Leisureguy

6 September 2021 at 12:32 pm

Celebrating Frances Perkins

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Heather Cox Richardson writes today, Labor Day:

On March 25, 1911, Frances Perkins was visiting with a friend who lived near Washington Square in New York City when they heard fire engines and people screaming. They rushed out to the street to see what the trouble was. A fire had broken out in a garment factory on the upper floors of a building on Washington Square, and the blaze ripped through the lint in the air. The only way out was down the elevator, which had been abandoned at the base of its shaft, or through an exit to the roof. But the factory owner had locked the roof exit that day because, he later testified, he was worried some of his workers might steal some of the blouses they were making.

“The people had just begun to jump when we got there,” Perkins later recalled. “They had been holding until that time, standing in the windowsills, being crowded by others behind them, the fire pressing closer and closer, the smoke closer and closer. Finally the men were trying to get out this thing that the firemen carry with them, a net to catch people if they do jump, the[y] were trying to get that out and they couldn’t wait any longer. They began to jump. The… weight of the bodies was so great, at the speed at which they were traveling that they broke through the net. Every one of them was killed, everybody who jumped was killed. It was a horrifying spectacle.”

By the time the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire was out, 147 young people were dead, either from their fall from the factory windows or from smoke inhalation.

Perkins had few illusions about industrial America: she had worked in a settlement house in an impoverished immigrant neighborhood in Chicago and was the head of the New York office of the National Consumers League, urging consumers to use their buying power to demand better conditions and wages for workers. But even she was shocked by the scene she witnessed on March 25.

By the next day, New Yorkers were gathering to talk about what had happened on their watch. “I can’t begin to tell you how disturbed the people were everywhere,” Perkins said. “It was as though we had all done something wrong. It shouldn’t have been. We were sorry…. We didn’t want it that way. We hadn’t intended to have 147 girls and boys killed in a factory. It was a terrible thing for the people of the City of New York and the State of New York to face.”

The Democratic majority leader in the New York legislature, Al Smith—who would a few years later go on to four terms as New York governor and become the Democratic presidential nominee in 1928—went to visit the families of the dead to express his sympathy and his grief. “It was a human, decent, natural thing to do,” Perkins said, “and it was a sight he never forgot. It burned it into his mind. He also got to the morgue, I remember, at just the time when the survivors were being allowed to sort out the dead and see who was theirs and who could be recognized. He went along with a number of others to the morgue to support and help, you know, the old father or the sorrowing sister, do her terrible picking out.”

“This was the kind of shock that we all had,” Perkins remembered.

The next Sunday, concerned New Yorkers met at the Metropolitan Opera House with the conviction that “something must be done. We’ve got to turn this into some kind of victory, some kind of constructive action….” One man contributed $25,000 to fund citizens’ action to “make sure that this kind of thing can never happen again.”

The gathering appointed a committee, which asked the legislature to create a bipartisan commission to figure out how to improve fire safety in factories. For four years, Frances Perkins was their chief investigator.

She later explained that although their mission was to stop factory fires, “we went on and kept expanding the function of the commission ’till it came to be the report on sanitary conditions and to provide for their removal and to report all kinds of unsafe conditions and then to report all kinds of human conditions that were unfavorable to the employees, including long hours, including low wages, including the labor of children, including the overwork of women, including homework put out by the factories to be taken home by the women. It included almost everything you could think of that had been in agitation for years. We were authorized to investigate and report and recommend action on all these subjects.”

And they did. Al Smith was the speaker of the house when they published their report, and soon would become governor. Much of what the commission recommended became law.

Perkins later mused that perhaps the new legislation to protect workers had in some way paid the debt society owed to the young people, dead at the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire. “The extent to which this legislation in New York marked a change in American political attitudes and policies toward social responsibility can scarcely be overrated,” she said. “It was, I am convinced, a turning point.”

But she was not done. In 1919, over the fervent objections of men, Governor Smith appointed Perkins to the New York State Industrial Commission to help weed out the corruption that was weakening the new laws. She continued to be one of his closest advisers on labor issues. In 1929, when Franklin Delano Roosevelt replaced Smith as New York governor, he appointed Perkins to oversee the state’s labor department as the Depression worsened. When President Herbert Hoover claimed that unemployment was ending, Perkins made national news when she repeatedly called him out with figures proving the opposite and said his “misleading statements” were “cruel and irresponsible.” She began to work with leaders from other states to figure out how to protect workers and promote employment by working together.

In 1933, after the people had rejected Hoover’s plan to let the Depression burn itself out, President-elect Roosevelt asked Perkins to serve as Secretary of Labor in his administration. She accepted only on the condition that he back her goals: unemployment insurance; health insurance; old-age insurance, a 40-hour work week; a minimum wage; and abolition of child labor. She later recalled: “I remember he looked so startled, and he said, ‘Well, do you think it can be done?’”

She promised to find out.

Once in office, Perkins was a driving force behind the . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

6 September 2021 at 10:17 am

The Radium Girls

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A Mighty Girl posted this on Facebook:

In the 1920s, a group of factory workers known as the “Radium Girls” fought for compensation after their work with radioactive paint made them sick — and, in honor of Labor Day, we’re sharing the story of their hard-fought legal victory which forever changed the face of labor rights in the United States. The Radium Girls had spent years painting watches and military dials with glowing radium paint, but even once the dire consequences of radium poisoning were clear, manufacturers like the U.S. Radium Corporation refused to provide help or compensation to their former employees. “They were going to die, there was no hope for them,” says Kate Moore, author of “The Radium Girls.” “[The women] are trying to speak out, and of course the radium firms not wanting that lucrative industry to be affected in the slightest, they’re silencing the women with everything they’ve got.”

When radium was first discovered in 1898, its use as a cancer treatment kicked off a craze for using the element in health and beauty products. “People were fascinated with its power,” Moore says. “It does give this illusion of good health, because it stimulates the red blood cells… [but] in the long term you’re poisoning yourself.” At first, the Radium Girls were considered lucky: not only were they paid three times what a regular factory worker received, but they spent their days surrounded by this miracle substance. Their technique to put a point on their brushes by sticking it between their lips, though, exposed them to a huge amount of radiation. “[I]t was the easiest way to get a fine point on the brush, to paint on numbers as small as a single millimeter in width,” Moore says. “The first thing they asked was [whether] the paint was harmful, but the managers said it was safe, which was the obvious answer for a manager of a company whose very existence depended on radium paint.” Radium dust was so thick in the factory, Moore notes, that “they were nicknamed ‘the ghost girls’ because… they would glow ethereally, they would literally be covered in it.”

In the early 1920s, some of the Radium Girls started having symptoms like fatigue and toothaches. The first death came in 1922: 22-year-old Mollie Maggia’s whole lower jaw had been eroded by the radiation, but her death certificate mistakenly listed the cause of death as syphilis. “[T]hat was seized upon by these companies,” Moore says. Existing laws also made it difficult for the women to force the company to act: radium poisoning was not on the list of diseases companies were liable for, and the two-year statute of limitations prevented workers from suing for a condition that often didn’t present immediately. “It’s mind-boggling,” Moore says. “We knew from the turn of the century that radium was dangerous and large amounts of it could destroy human tissue…. The radium was destroying the bone and literally drilling holes in the women’s jaws while they were still alive.”

In 1925, Grace Fryer, a worker from the original New Jersey plant, decided to take U.S. Radium Corp. to court; it took her two years to find a lawyer who would take her case. In 1927, she and four workers filed, making headlines around the world. They were backed by the New Jersey Consumers League, who helped keep up the media pressure. The case was settled in 1928, by which point companies had already stopped recommending the lip pointing technique and started providing protective gear. Survivors were given compensation and doctors were directed to start listing the correct cause of death on death certificates. Even still, companies appealed for years; the Supreme Court rejected the final appeal in 1939. The case became a key milestone in the history of workers’ rights. “It was one of the very first cases in which an employer was held accountable for the health of its employees, and so it lays the groundwork for organizations like OSHA (the Occupational Safety and Health Administration) that will eventually protect many millions of other workers,” Moore says, “and I think that’s quite a legacy to leave.”

For adult readers who would like to learn more about these heroic women, we highly recommend “The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women.”

There is also a new Young Readers adaptation of “The Radium Girls” for ages 10 and up.

For a young adult mystery about a modern teen girl who uncovers the story of the Radium Girls, we recommend “Glow” for ages 14 and up.

For books for children and teens about the contributions of women to the fight for workers’ rights, check out our blog post “Fighting For Justice: 20 Books About Women and the Labor Movement.”

And for fans of the bestselling “Radium Girls,” we highly recommend author Kate Moore’s new book about a forgotten hero who helped countless women whose voice had been silenced: “The Woman They Could Not Silence.”

Written by Leisureguy

6 September 2021 at 9:31 am

Rockwell Shaving Cream with the iKon stainless-steel slant — and Penhaligon’s Blenheim Bouquet again

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Rockwell included a sample of their shaving cream with the Model T2 I ordered a while back. I came across the sample and thought I’d give it a try. The tab at the top is a cut-off, not a tear-off as I originally thought. Once the tab has been removed, the amount of cream I squeezed out was, I now realize, more than enough for two shaves if not three. It lathers abundantly and its slickness is amazing. The fragrance is pleasant if a bit generic, but the cream itself really does the job. 

My Wee Scot held plenty of lather for the shave, and the wonderful iKon slant smoothed my stubble away effortlessly — three passes left my face BBS.

I like Blenheim Bouquet so much that I had to use it again right away. This is an aftershave I might have to replace. A good splash started the holiday right — and a happy Labor Day to you.

Written by Leisureguy

6 September 2021 at 8:37 am

Posted in Shaving

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