Collection ID: M.62

Collection context


circa 1895, circa 1916-1996, 2020 and undated
The personal papers of Elsie Flink, Waterbury resident and personality. Flink worked at several local factories and was a member of St. John's Church. She participated in a study about radium poisoning since she was one of Waterbury's Radium Girls.
.33 Cubic Feet and 3/4 of a letter-sized manuscript box and 1 small box for trinkets
English , French , Swedish .


Rules or conventions:
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Scope and Content:

The Elsie Flink Papers are the personal papers of Waterbury resident Elsie Flink. The papers span circa 1895 through her death in 1996, with additional oral histories about Elsie from friends who knew her in 2020. Of special interest are two photographs from WWI – depicting the view from a trench and a bombed building. Additionally, researchers may be interested in two newsletters from the Center for Human Radiobiology from the 1980s which detail research into the long-term effects of radium poisoning.

The collection is paper based and contains physical objects. Document types include: correspondence, postcards, greeting cards, black and white photographs, color photographs, a small scrapbook, a book of common prayer, newspaper clippings, and hand written notes. Physical items include: painted silver leaves, pressed flowers from the Holy Land, a photograph in a daguerreotype case, 6 pins/broaches of which two are photographs, 3 small keys, a locket, a small cross for a necklace, 3 medallions, 1 small tin from Fascia's Chocolates in Waterbury, and 1 wrapper of a complimentary soap from the Elton hotel located on the Green in Waterbury.

The collection is housed in one manuscript box, and trinkets are housed in a small box. The collection is arranged chronologically.

Biographical / Historical:

Elsie was born on November 8, 1894 in Worcester, Massachusetts. Her parents were Hilma Flink and Karl E. Flink and genealogy records indicate that Hilma and Karl immigrated from London to the United States, though they were originally from Sweden. Hilma died when Elsie was a small child, and she and her brother went to live with relatives. Olaf William Flink was Elsie's brother. He served in the military as a Chief Mechanic. He died of Meningitis in a hospital in France in 1918. Elsie married in 1918, but her husband left her shortly after and she remained independent.

For much of her adult life, Elsie worked in Waterbury factories. For a time she worked at the Waterbury Watch Company where she painted the glow-in-the-dark numbers onto the clocks. A radium girl – because workers were encouraged to lick the brushes to get a finer point, Elsie participated in a long-term study on the effects of radium poisoning, though she was never open about its effects on her. Elsie also worked at Scovill

Manufacturing Company. In the 1950s she inherited a small house in Middlebury, which can be seen photographs. Later in her life, she lived at the Elton Hotel.

Elsie was a member of St. John's church in Waterbury and was active in their choir and volunteered with the church's elderly feeding program. She had been a member of the church since she was 13 years old. In a newspaper article celebrating her 100th birthday, Elsie told the reporter that she once driven a car at 90 miles an hour. Elsie loved cats and several photographs from the 1990s depict her holding one or two cats on her lap. Being a Radium Girl, Elsie used to say that she glowed in the dark. She was incredibly smart, feisty, independent, and well loved by everyone who met her.

Custodial history:

This collection was donated by Clair Rundhaug in 2020.

Indexed Terms

Watch dial painters
Waterbury, Connecticut


63 Prospect St
Waterbury, CT, USA
(203) 753-0381