Terrible Typhoid Mary: A True Story of the Deadliest Cook in America Reviews

UPDATE TIME: 2019-11-16 
Review Score: 4 out of 5 star From 41 user ratings

"This book follows the story of Mary and her mistreatment by the city of New York City at the turn of the 20th century. This was before many laws were passed about the medical and humane treatment of people. The Irish immigrant Mary is accused of giving the lethal disease typhoid to households she cooks for. Mary's refusal to cooperate with testing (because she has never had typhoid) leads to her forced imprisonment for testing. She would be imprisoned in a hospital at least 3 times unable to leave or have rights. " said.

"Wow, I didn't realize that I knew so little about Terrible Typhoid Mary.  From her own personal history, to her misfortune of being an immune carrier, to doctors' refusal for her to have her own autonomy.  Typhoid Mary left a trail of dead and infected behind her, and at a time where little was known about germs and infections and bacteria, this was seen as a terrible happenstance.  But when doctors started catching on and wondering what was causing typhoid in an uptown, rich family's household, all eyes slowly pointed on Mary.

Thus beginning one of the biggest cases of medical ethics in American history.  What do you do when someone is infecting others (not on purpose, obviously!)?  Do you let them continue (there hasn't been a cure or vaccine yet)?  Do you lock them up and quarantine them?  And what do you do when the immune carrier refuses to help in any capacity?

Filled with illustrations, maps, and a great bibliography, this makes for an intriguing look at a specific point in medical history.  Overall, this was a great, fast-paced, and informative read that kept me wanting to know more.

Review cross-listed here!
" said.

" What a fascinating story. Would make for good class discussion on so many topics, denial of scientific evidence, treatment of women and immigrants, privacy, yellow journalism...I wanted more out of the writing-it was too sparse for me. " said.

" Good book about an interesting subject. Fantastic photos, notes, bibliography. Susan Campbell Bartoletti is one of my favorite non fiction authors for young teens and teens. This book is not her best work though. It felt like she was writing to a younger audience than who would read this book. The writing felt condescending. The title is a little sensational - does it really need to be "Terrible" Typhoid Mary? Nonetheless, it's still a very good (and quick) book that I recommend. " said.

"A young adult sort of biography about a woman who ended up as a phrase in our vocabulary meaning someone who spreads diseases without caring about others. This book while discussing why Mary Mallon ended up with the moniker and how her issues may have happened it also talks about the Health Department and just how much they were legally allowed to do things that would cause an uproar these days. It also gives some background on the people who cause Mary to be incarcerated for most of her life. I felt really sorry for her due to what she went through and how fearful she was of doctors and the "experiments" they did on here. Also, how badly her life was curtailed by fear of illness in that era. " said.

" A very engaging and enjoyable read.Poor Mary - a typhoid carrier with no symptoms herself of the disease and only having one trade that would pay her anything semi decent, that is being a cook, and that is the one trade that more or less guaranteed that there would be victim upon victim from her touching their food.A sad but true story of one life in turn of the century NY. " said.

"This is the second book I've read about Mary Mallon, aka Typhoid Mary. Both this book and the other, Fatal Fever are excellent reads. They are both written in a narrative nonfiction format, making the information easily digestible.

During the early 1900s doctors and scientists were making great strides in understanding the spread of disease. Typhoid epidemics were usually traced to a water supply contaminated by sewage. It was most common in the lower classes in overcrowded cities. When a wealthy family vacationing on Long Island came down with the disease, people wanted answers. Since the water and other possible causes checked out fine, a well-respected epidemiologist was hired to solve the mystery. His investigation led him to the cook Mary Mallon. Once he tracked her down, he found that other families who employed her had also contracted the disease. He believed that she was a healthy carrier of the Typhoid bacterium and transferred it to food by not washing her hands thoroughly.

After several failed attempts to get her to comply with testing, she finally had to be taken by force. Her specimens tested positive for Typhoid and she was quarantined in a hospital facility on Brother Island in New York's East River. Her case became famous in the news, because she was healthy and held against her will. The Health Department felt she was a threat to society. After 3 years, they released her under the condition that she never work in food service again. She broke the agreement, caused another outbreak, and was forced to live the rest of her life on Brother Island.

It's a fascinating bit of history. If you're trying to get kids to read nonfiction, I highly recommend this book.
" said.

" Really interesting. Mary was quite a feisty person " said.

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