Mary Mallon and the history of typhoid fever
Mary Mallon was born in 1869 in Ireland and emigrated to the US in 1884. She had worked in a variety of domestic positions for wealthy families prior to settling into her career as a cook. As a healthy carrier of Salmonella typhi her nickname of “Typhoid Mary” had become synonymous with the spread of disease, as many were infected due to her denial of being ill. She was forced into quarantine on two separate occasions on North Brother Island for a total of 26 years and died alone without friends, having evidently found consolation in her religion to which she gave her faith and loyalty. The history of Mary Mallon, declared “unclean” like a leper, may give us some moral lessons on how to protect the ill and how we can be protected from illness. Mary had refused the one operation which might have cured her. In later years she lost much of her bitterness and lived a fairly contented if necessarily restricted life.