Sunday, June 14, 2020

Luminous Blog Tour

The last two weeks have been an adventure as I have traveled to some wonderful blogs to talk about Luminous: The Story of a Radium Girl and Catherine Donohue. If you weren't able to visit each stop, they are listed below. Thank you to all the lovely book bloggers who welcomed me to their turf!

Luminous Blog Tour Stops:

Coffee Pot Book Club - Life in the Time of the Radium Girls
Stephanie Churchill - A Book Review of Luminous
Regina Jeffers - Worker's Compensation and the Radium Girls
History the Interesting Bits - Worker Exploitation at Radium Dial
Suzy Henderson - The Forgotten History of the Radium Girls
Paula Lofting - An Excerpt from Luminous: The Story of a Radium Girl
The Writing Desk - Author Interview
Judith Arnopp - The Society of the Living Dead
Pam Lecky - Author Interview

Do you have your copy of Luminous?

Get it now on Amazon worldwide.

Saturday, June 6, 2020

Remembering Robert F Kennedy

Bobby Kennedy for President: A Dream Lost read one headline in the days following June 6, 1968. The murder was tragic in so many ways. Bobby had been devastated by the assassination of his closest brother, President John F Kennedy. He was a 42 year-old father with 10 children and an 11th on the way. And America lost something increasingly rare, a politician who truly cared about people, who could connect with them regardless of differences and who could understand their plight though he didn't share it, who didn't want power for his own purposes but to help others.

As Arthur Schlesinger puts it in his book, Robert Kennedy and His Times, "He never had the chance to fulfill his own possibilities, which is why his memory haunts so many of us now." Bobby was thoughtful, but not an intellectual. His tireless work ethic caused some to call him ruthless, but he was sensitive - to his own failures and the needs of others. 

He overcame some of his personal obstacles in order to serve his country. When he joined his brother's campaign for the Massachusetts House of Representatives, one of the other campaign workers said, "Words came out of his mouth as if each one spoken depleted an already severely limited supply." Years later, Bobby would draw thousands to hear him speak. Crowds were eager to catch a glimpse of him. They stole his cuff links and tore his clothes in an effort to have a memento of him.

Bobby also set himself apart from the Kennedy clan by steadfastly adhering to his Catholic beliefs. He was faithful to his wife, cared about the poor, and regularly attended mass. According to Schlesinger, he "was determined to win the $2000 prize offered by Joseph Kennedy to all his children who did not drink or smoke till their twenty-first birthday." Even when married with children, he and Ethel did not have alcohol or ashtrays in their home.

When Bobby decided to run for president in 1968, it was reluctantly, and he was late to the game. A whirlwind campaign began on March 16, 1968, and these last months of Bobby Kennedy's life are an exemplary demonstration of who he was and what his values were.

He did much of what we expect from a politician on campaign. He spoke at universities and had dinners with local political leaders, but he also did plenty of the unexpected. Bobby took the time to visit Indian reservations and held impoverished babies. Crowds lined the streets, not just when he entered a town, but sometimes stretching for miles. And Bobby didn't just wave. He had his car slow down and even stop, often making him late to see 'more important' men. He leaned out into crowds, but to the dismay of his bodyguard, who knelt in the vehicle and held Bobby around the waist to keep him from being torn from the vehicle.

The bodyguard, Bill Barry had his work cut out for him, trying to keep Kennedy safe, while Bobby was insistent that no one be hurt or pushed away. Barry said, "I wanted him to be President of the United States for the sake of my children and generations to come. It was not just a professional job with me." People simply loved Bobby, but they left him bruised and bloody from their grasping.

Bobby was emotional, and this was often revealed in his speeches. Calling for an end to war in Vietnam, he asked one crowd about the things that might have been accomplished by the men who had died. Included in a lofty list that included curing cancer and founding a university, he asked, "Which of them might have taught a small child to read? It is our responsibility to let those men live."

On April 4, the Kennedy caravan was on its way to Indianapolis when they received the news of Martin Luther King Jr's assassination. Concerned for his safety, many discouraged Bobby from speaking. The crowd he was to address was expected to be 70% African-American, and they had not yet heard the news. They learned of the murder from Bobby at a park now memorialized as the Landmark for Peace.

"I have bad news for you, for all of our fellow citizens, and people who love peace all over the world, and that is that Martin Luther King was shot and killed tonight. Martin Luther King dedicated his life to love and to justice for his fellow human beings, and he died because of that effort. In this difficult day, in this difficult time for the United States, it is perhaps well to ask what kind of nation we are and what direction we want to move in. For those of you who are black - considering the evidence there is that there were white people who were responsible - you can be filled with bitterness, with hatred, and a desire for revenge. We can move in that direction as a country....Or we can make an effort, as Martin Luther King did, to understand and to comprehend, and to replace that violence, that stain of bloodshed that has spread across our land, with an effort to understand with compassion and love. For those of you who are black and are tempted to be filled with hatred and distrust at the injustice of such an act, against all white people, I can only say that I feel in my own heart the same kind of feeling. I had a member of my family killed by a white man. But we have to make an effort in the United States, we have to make an effort to understand, to go beyond these rather difficult times."

He then quoted Aeschylus. "In our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God."

 Many major cities in the United States suffered violence and riots that night and in the nights that followed, but Indianapolis was not one of them. Kennedy also called the widow, Coretta Scott King, and asked what he could do to help her, although some discouraged him from getting involved during the campaign. She needed help arranging for her husband's body to be brought home from Memphis to Atlanta. Bobby made the arrangements.

Kennedy's victory speech at Ambassador Hotel
moments before he was shot
At his next campaign stop, Bobby mentioned the rioting. "No martyr's cause has ever been stilled by his assassin's bullet. No wrongs have ever been righted by riots and civil disorders. A sniper is only a coward, not a hero, and an uncontrolled, uncontrollable mob is only the voice of madness, not the voice of the people." But he did not stop there. "There is another kind of violence, slower but just as deadly, destructive as the shot or the bomb in the night. This is the violence of institutions; indifference and inaction and slow decay. This is the violence that afflicts the poor, that poisons relations between men because their skin has different colors. This is a slow destruction of a child by hunger, and schools without books, and homes without heat in the winter."

He also wasn't afraid to speak uncomfortable truths. When a student at a Catholic university pointed out that the draft got blacks out of the ghetto, he didn't hold back. "How can you say that we can deal with the problems of the poor by sending them to Vietnam?" He challenged them, as those with the power to do something, to get up and make changes.

He was serious and driven, but also occasionally revealed a quick wit. Once, when asked what was the difference between him and McCarthy, he joked, "Charm, sense of humor."

People lining the tracks as RFK funeral train passed

What could Bobby Kennedy have done for America if he had not been shot in the early hours of June 5, 1968? It's difficult to imagine the suspense hanging like a cloud over the nation as doctors worked to save his life, only to admit defeat at 1:44am the next day.

Americans had learned to mourn Kennedys less than five years earlier, and they came out in droves again to say goodbye to Bobby. People were so eager to demonstrate their sorrow that two mourners were hit by a train and killed as they tried to touch the train carrying Bobby Kennedy's body to Washington DC. At the Democratic National Convention in August 1968, Ted Kennedy, the youngest and only surviving Kennedy brother spoke.

"If my brother's life, and death, had one meaning above all others, it was this: that we should not hate but love one another, that our strength should not be used to create the conditions of oppression that lead to violence, but the conditions of justice that lead to peace."


Final resting place of Robert F Kennedy at Arlington National Cemetery



Additional Suggested Reading:

Robert Kennedy and His Times by Arthur M Schlesinger, Jr
85 Days: The Last Campaign of Robert Kennedy by Jules Witcover
The Last Campaign: Robert F Kennedy and 82 Days That Inspired America by Thurston Clarke

Friday, June 5, 2020

Luminous: The Story of a Radium Girl

Catherine Donohue's life was set on an unexpected course when she accepted a job at Radium Dial. The pay was great, and her co-workers became her best friends. But a secret was lurking in the greenish-grey paint that magically made things glow in the dark. When Catherine and her friends started becoming sick, this shy Catholic girl stood up to the might of the radium industry, the legal and medical communities, and townspeople who told her to be quiet. Would she be too late?

Catherine's quest for social justice in the era between World Wars is emotive and inspiring.

It’s too late for me, but maybe it will help some of the others.
~ Catherine Wolfe Donohue

Follow me on Facebook for the Luminous Blog Tour!