Rachel Sumner “Radium Girls (Curie Eleison)” – all for a glowing watch face

Photo: Hannah Cohen

Rachel Sumner has been garnering some acclaim through a number of prize nominations, amongst other things – the past three years alone has seen: Kerrville New Folk Finalist; Great River Folk Festival Finalist; Chris Austin Songwriting Contest (Merlefest) Alternate; Grand Prize Winner in the Folk Category of the John Lennon Songwriting Contest; and, subsequently, the Lennon Award in the Folk Category. The song that received so much acclaim from the John Lennon Songwriting Contest, ‘Radium Girls (Curie Eleison),’ details the struggles of early 20th century women who suffered at the hands of their employers but fought for restitution. Though the song’s subjects lived over a century ago, it brings modern ideas of feminism and workers’ rights to the fore. And now this song has caught the attention of the ethnomusicologists and folklorists of the Library of Congress, where it will be featured in the American Folklife Center’s Homegrown Music of America concert series and added to its permanent collection, an honour rarely bestowed on modern songs.   And it’s easy to hear why – this is a grand ballad that tells an all too familiar story of worker exploitation and adds an extra twist that the female employees who suffered so badly were smeared and besmirched, despite their employers knowing what was making them sick.  We won’t give too much away – listen to the song, it’s worth your time.


About Jonathan Aird 2720 Articles
Sure, I could climb high in a tree, or go to Skye on my holiday. I could be happy. All I really want is the excitement of first hearing The Byrds, the amazement of decades of Dylan's music, or the thrill of seeing a band like The Long Ryders live. That's not much to ask, is it?
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