Terrible Typhoid Mary
post written by Emma Filbrun
Title: Terrible Typhoid Mary
Author: Susan Campbell Bartoletti
Major Themes: Typhoid
Synopsis: After cases of typhoid appeared in many houses in which Mary Mallon had worked, she was confined to ensure the public’s safety.
I heard of Typhoid Mary many years ago, but had only read a few paragraphs about her. When I saw Terrible Typhoid Mary, I wanted to read it. I was not disappointed. Susan Campbell Bartoletti has done a superb job of researching what is known about Mary Mallon.
Mary Mallon was working as a cook for a rich family in 1906, a job she had been doing for many years. She was a very good cook, and hard working. When the several members of the family she had just started working for contracted typhoid, no one knew where they caught it—until someone began to suspect the cook. As he investigated, he discovered that typhoid seemed to follow Mary from job to job. Eventually, she was arrested in order to run tests. Typhoid germs were found in her excrement, proving that she was, indeed, the first proven healthy carrier of typhoid. After being locked up for a few years, Mary was released after agreeing to never cook for people again. She disappeared—until typhoid broke out in a women’s hospital in Manhattan. Sure enough, Mary was cooking there, under an assumed name. Once again, she was placed under arrest.
Other carriers of typhoid were never confined against their will; why was Mary Mallon? There are no clear answers to this question, just as there are no answers to Mary’s early life. The facts that are known about Mary, however, make fascinating reading. Any lover of history or medical stories will enjoy Terrible Typhoid Mary.
Note: I received a free ecopy of this book in exchange for an honest review.