Things You Didn’t Know About Typhoid Mary

In case you don’t know who Typhoid Mary is, she was a seemingly healthy woman who happened to be an asymptomatic carrier of the deadly disease, typhoid. Mary Mallon seemed to be a magnet for death wherever she went, earning her the scary nickname. Back then medicine was still in its infancy, and poor Mary had to endure a lot, some which was the result of her own wrongdoing. Below are five things that most people, maybe even you, don’t know about Typhoid Mary.

1. Mary Was Neither the Only Carrier nor the Most Deadly

Mary Mallon is the most notable typhoid carrier simply because she was the first one to be identified. By 1909, at least five other healthy carriers were detected by the New York City Health Department. But Mary was the only one to ever be quarantined despite another healthy carrier, Tony Labella, infecting 122 people and causing five deaths. That’s over twice Mary’s numbers (47 – 51 infected people and 3 deaths). About 135 people became typhoid carriers each year or 3% of the 4,500 new cases in New York City.

2. Typhoid Mary Was Violent

Dr. George Soper, who is credited with drastically reducing the number of typhoid cases, paid Mary a surprise visit after her employer’s family and six servants all contracted the deadly disease. As he tried explaining to her that she was a carrier of typhoid, Mary lunged at him with a carving knife. So he sent Josephine Baker, one of the first female physicians, believing that Mary would respond better to a woman. That backfired as well and Baker was forced to return with the police to escort Mary away. She even had to sit on her chest in the ambulance to prevent her from escaping!

3. Mary Was Taken by Force

After the ambulance fiasco, Mary was taken to the Willard Parker Hospital where she had to give blood and other samples to prove her innocence (or guilt). Well, Mary refused, and insisted that she was healthy. Seeing her as a menace to society, Mary was transported to North Brother Island in the middle of East River where she would spend the next three years. People with infectious diseases were quarantined there and escape was impossible, unless you had a boat. She never received a trial either!

4. Soper Offered to Release Mary If She Would Have Her Gallbladder Removed

During her time at Willard Parker Hospital, Soper paid Mary a visit to make a deal: she would be released if she agreed to have her gallbladder removed. His reasoning was that most of the germs were located there and, like the appendix, she could live just fine without it. Naturally, the strong-willed Mary refused stating “No knife will be put on me. There is nothing wrong with my gallbladder.” This wasn’t an entirely bad decision on her part, considering how risky surgery was back then, mostly due to the lack of hygiene.

5. Mary Received a Marriage Proposal While Quarantined

After reading about Typhoid Mary in the newspaper, Reuben Gray, a 28-year-old Michigan farmer, wrote to Health Commissioner Thomas Darlington that he wanted to marry Mary and offer her a home on his large farm, far away from anyone. His reason? Well, she was a great cook, something he wanted most in a wife. Though, he did disclose to Mary that he was insane before and had been mentally clear for over three years. As with everything else mentioned earlier, Mary declined his offer.

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