Frances Splettscher was the first of the Waterbury radium girls to die. In 1921 at the age of 17, she had gone to work for the Waterbury Clock Co., painting watch dials with the new miracle substance, radium.
To get a nice, sharp point on her paintbrush, Frances, like the other radium girls, put the brush to her lips to get a nice, sharp point, dipped it into the paint and painted the dial. Then she did it again, over and over, for eight cents a dial.
In the 80's, there was still an abandoned factory in St. Louis where they made radium watches. I remember reading how the women would put their brushes in their mouths to twist the bristles tighter before painting the hands and dial. The rooms where the work was done still glowed where the radium solution had spilled on the tables, etc.
My 9th grade science teacher still wore his radium watch and would use it with the geiger counter to describe radiation. He had survived Pearl Harbor and wasn't the least bit worried about his watch.
There is also a film that was released earlier this year.
I did a bit of research. As far as I can tell, it got temporarily shelved due to the COVID crisis; the original release date was April 3. It's just dormant - it hasn't played anywhere and there's no streaming or video release as of yet. It's an indie movie (New Jersey-based Juno Films) but it looks good. It actually played at film festivals in 2018.