And now a page from our "Sunday Morning" Almanac: September 23, 1869, 149 years ago today … the day that saw the birth, in rural Ireland, of Mary Mallon – remembered today as "Typhoid Mary."
She emigrated to New York in the 1880s, where she built a career as a cook to the wealthy.
In 1906, a family she cooked for on Long Island's posh Gold Coast contracted typhoid fever ... a disease more commonly found in crowded slums.
An investigation determined that Mary Mallon was a "healthy carrier" of the disease, able to pass it onto others by handling food while exhibiting no symptoms herself.
Sensationally labeled by the press as "Typhoid Mary," Mallon was quarantined ... released ... and quarantined again, living out her days at an island hospital, where she died in 1938 at the age of 69.
Gone for 80 years, Typhoid Mary is hardly forgotten, her reputation as a pariah forever invoked in our popular culture, as in this exchange on "The Big Bang Theory":
Public health experts still debate the ethics of how their profession treated Mary Mallon. But there's no doubting the long shadow she continues to cast as "Typhoid Mary."
For more info:
- The Frightening Legacy of Typhoid Mary (Smithsonian Magazine, March 2015)
- The Strange Case of Typhoid Mary (Quanta, August 2016)
- NYC Parks: Visiting North Brother Island, site of Typhoid Mary's quarantine
Story produced by Justin Hayter and Charis Satchell.