Typhoid Mary

Introduction

"TYPHOID MARY" FREED.

[Communicable diseases spread by household and street dust]"Typhoid Mary," the cook who has been detained for three years in quarantine on North Brother Island by order of the Board of Health, has been released. Although she has never had typhoid fever herself, she is infected with typhoid germs and typhoid has developed frequently in houses in which she was employed.

Commissioner Lederle said yesterday: "She has been released because she has been shut up long enough to learn the precautions that she ought to take. As long as she observes them I have little fear that she will be a danger to her neighbors. The chief points that she must observe are personal cleanliness and the keeping away from the preparation of other person's food.

"I have taken a personal interest in her case and I am doing what I can for her. It seems to me that the people of this city ought to do something for her. She is a good cook and until her detention had always made a comfortable living. Now she is debarred from it, and I really do not know what she can do. I know where she is, but must decline to give any information on this point. She has promised to report to me regularly and not to take another position as a cook. I am going to do all I can to help her."

Dr. Lederle admitted that there might be other persons quite as dangerous to their neighbors as "Typhoid Mary" from their peculiar harboring of germs. This, he said, was one reason why, he did not think that she should be any longer singled out for confinement. During the three years she was quarantined in North Brother Island she made several attempts to secure her liberty through habeas corpus proceedings. Last June her lawyer informed the court that she was shunned by all the other residents on the island and arrangements were made for the amelioration of the conditions under which she lived. She has not at any time been ill while she has been shut up and is described as a robust woman of about 40.

SOURCE: New York Times (New York), February 21, 1910

National History Standards

Materials compiled in this document can be used by educators to fulfill the following National History Standards for Grades 5-12:

Era 7: The Emergence of Modern America (1890-1930) 

STANDARD 1: How Progressives and others addressed problems of industrial capitalism, urbanization, and political corruption.

Standard 1A: The student understands the origin of the Progressives and the coalitions they formed to deal with issues at the local and state levels.

5-12: Evaluate Progressive attempts at social and moral reform. [Marshal evidence of antecedent circumstances] 

STANDARD 2: The changing role of the United States in world affairs through World War I. 

Standard 2C: The student understands the impact at home and abroad of the United States involvement in World War I.

9-12: Analyze the impact of public opinion and government policies on constitutional interpretation and civil liberties. [Evaluate the implementation of a decision] 

Primary Resources

  1. DESCRIPTION: HEALTHY DISEASE SPREADERS.
    DATE CREATED: July 1, 1909
    SOURCE: New York Times. Available online through Historical New York Times (subscription required).

  2. DESCRIPTION: "TYPHOID MARY" MUST STAY.; Court Rejects Her Plea to Quit Riverside Hospital.
    DATE CREATED: July 17, 1909
    SOURCE: New York Times. Available online through Historical New York Times (subscription required).

  3. DESCRIPTION: "TYPHOID MARY" FREED.; Lederle Thinks She's Learned to Keep Her Germs to Herself.
    DATE CREATED: February 21, 1910
    SOURCE: New York Times. Available online through Historical New York Times (subscription required).

  4. DESCRIPTION: GUIDE A WALKING TYPHOID FACTORY; Adirondack Woodsman Found to be Charged with the Germs -- Is a Public Menace.
    DATE CREATED: December 2, 1910
    SOURCE: New York Times. Available online through Historical New York Times (subscription required).

  5. DESCRIPTION: 'TYPHOID MARY' ASKS $50,000 FROM CITY; Not a Germ Carrier and Never Had a Contagious Disease, She Says. HER LAWYER TO FILE SUIT Her Standing as a Cook Has Been Injured by Her Three Years' Imprisonment as a Public Danger.
    DATE CREATED: December 3, 1911
    SOURCE: New York Times. Available online through Historical New York Times (subscription required).

  6. DESCRIPTION: HOSPITAL EPIDEMIC FROM TYPHOID MARY; Germ Carrier, Cooking Under False Name, Spread Disease in Sloane Institution. CAUGHT HIDING IN QUEENS Blamed for Twenty-five Cases of Fever Among Doctors and Nurses -- Now In Quarantine.
    DATE CREATED: March 28, 1915
    SOURCE: New York Times. Available online through Historical New York Times (subscription required).

  7. DESCRIPTION: Photograph, Sloane Maternity Hospital
    DATE CREATED: n. d.
    REPRODUCTIONS: How to Access and Use Prints and Photographs
    REPOSITORY: National Library of Medicine, Bethesda, MD

  8. DESCRIPTION: "TYPHOID MARY" HAS REAPPEARED; Human Culture Tube, Herself Immune, Spreads the Disease Wherever She Goes.
    DATE CREATED: April 4, 1915
    SOURCE: New York Times. Available online through Historical New York Times (subscription required).

  9. DESCRIPTION: 'TYPHOID MARY' DIES OF A STROKE AT 68; Carrier of Disease, Blamed for 51 Cases and 3 Deaths, but She Was Held Immune Services This Morning Epidemic Is Traced
    DATE CREATED: November 12, 1938
    SOURCE: New York Times. Available online through Historical New York Times (subscription required).

  10. DESCRIPTION: TYPHOID MARY BURIED; Nine Persons Attend Mass for Her at Church in the Bronx
    DATE CREATED: November 13, 1938
    SOURCE: New York Times. Available online through Historical New York Times (subscription required).

Additional Media Resources

Typhoid Mary: The Most Dangerous Woman in America

Additional Instructional Resources

Typhoid Mary: The Most Dangerous Woman in America 

Secondary Resources

Leavitt, Judith Walzer. Typhoid Mary: Captive to the Public's Health. Boston: Beacon Press, 1996.

Leavitt, Judith Walzer, "'Typhoid Mary' Strikes Back Bacteriological Theory and Practice in Early Twentieth-Century Public Health" Isis (December 1992): 608-629.

Mason, W. P. "Typhoid Mary." Science (Jul. 1909): 117-118.

Mendelsohn, J. Andrew, "'Typhoid Mary' Strikes Again: The Social and the Scientific in the Making of Modern Public Health." Isis (June 1995): 268-277.

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Credits

Teaching American History in Maryland is a collaborative partnership of the Maryland State Archives and the Center for History Education (CHE), University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC), and the following sponsoring school systems: Anne Arundel County Public Schools, Baltimore City Public School System, Baltimore County Public Schools, and Howard County Public Schools.

Other program partners include the Martha Ross Center for Oral History, Maryland Historical Society, State Library Resource Center/Enoch Pratt Free Library, with assistance from the National Archives and Records Administration and the Library of Congress. The program is funded through grants from the U.S. Department of Education.

This document packet was researched and developed by Nancy Bramucci.

 

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