Skip to main content
Select Source:

Typhoid Mary

TYPHOID MARY

Mary Mallon (1870?1938), known as Typhoid Mary, was an itinerant domestic servant and cook, probably an Irish immigrant, though possibly American-born (her origin and early life are un-known). She probably had typhoid fever in 1899 and made an apparently complete recovery. However, she was a symptomless carrier of typhoid bacilli, presumably from a nidus of infection in her gallbladder, for many yearsperhaps for the rest of her life.

Between 1900 and 1907, Mallon is known to have infected twenty-two people in New York City, passing the typhoid bacillus to them in cakes she had baked. One of these persons died. The nascent clinical science of bacteriological epidemiology enabled public health authorities to trace her and eventually to apprehend her. She was held in quarantine on North Brother Island, off the Bronx coast, for three years, then released after solemnly promising never to work as a cook again. But she soon broke her promise, and returned to the only occupation at which she could survive, becoming a cook in Sloan Maternity Hospital, where she infected twenty-five more people, two of whom died.

Mallon was incarcerated again in quarantine, where she remained until her death in 1938. She was apparently a likable and pleasant womanshe was said to be "good with children"and she was an excellent cook. Her life story has been the topic of several books and a movie.

Mallon's experience is a paradigm for some of the failings of public health, which can exert authority over people's lives in order to control some diseases but cannot necessarily correct the underlying social and economic conditions that are ultimately responsible for these diseases. A modern parallel to the story of Typhoid Mary can be seen in the experience of many sex workers infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), hepatitis, and other diseases.

John M. Last

(see also: Carrier; Communicable Disease Control; Food-Borne Diseases; Quarantine; Typhoid )

Bibliography

Leavitt, J. W. (2000). Typhoid Mary; Captive to the Public's Health. Boston, MA: Beacon Books.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Typhoid Mary." Encyclopedia of Public Health. . Encyclopedia.com. 17 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Typhoid Mary." Encyclopedia of Public Health. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 17, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/typhoid-mary

"Typhoid Mary." Encyclopedia of Public Health. . Retrieved September 17, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/typhoid-mary

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Typhoid Mary

Typhoid Mary the nickname of Mary Mallon (died 1938), an Irish-born cook who as an unwitting carrier of the disease transmitted typhoid fever in the US.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Typhoid Mary." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Encyclopedia.com. 17 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Typhoid Mary." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 17, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/typhoid-mary

"Typhoid Mary." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Retrieved September 17, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/typhoid-mary

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.