Mary Typhoid – Mary Mallon (Cook)

Mary Typhoid

Mary Mallon(Mary Typhoid) was an immigrant woman working in New York City in the early 1900s. Mary Mallon (Mary Typhoid)became the most famous symbol of infectious disease in the United States. Mary Mallon (Mary Typhoid)  was born on September 23, 1869, Cookstown, County Tyrone, Ireland and died November 11, 1938, North Brother Island, Bronx, New York, U.S. Mary Mallon (Mary Typhoid) immigrated to the United States in 1883 and subsequently made her living as a domestic servant, most often as a cook. From 1900 to 1907 nearly two dozen people fell ill with typhoid fever in households in New York City and Long Island where Mary worked. The illnesses often occurred shortly after Mary began working in each household, but, by the time the disease was traced to its source in a household where she had recently been employed, Mary had disappeared.

In 1906, when Charles Henry Warren’s family vacation on Long Island was interrupted by six of the eleven people in the rented house coming down with typhoid, he decided to find out why. Warren hired George Soper, a civil engineer, who took one look at the breakdown of the house, and decided the most likely culprit was the cook. Impossible, thought the Warrens. The cook, a thirty-something immigrant from Ireland, remained the picture of health throughout the outbreak. But George Soper was able to trace her employment history back, and found that she had changed jobs frequently – once a year for seven years. At every one of her seven jobs, people had become sick with typhoid. One person had died.

Mary fled, but authorities led by Soper finally overtook her and had her committed to an isolation centre on North Brother Island, part of the Bronx, New York. There she stayed; the health department released her on condition that she never again accepts employment that involved the handling of food. Four years later Soper began looking for Mary again when an epidemic broke out at a sanatorium in Newfoundland, New Jersey, and at Sloane Maternity Hospital in Manhattan, New York; Mary had worked as a cook at both places. She was at last found in a suburban home in Westchester County, New York, and was returned to North Brother Island, where she remained the rest of her life. Fifty-one original cases of typhoid and three deaths were directly attributed to her

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