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America's History in the Making

Resource Archive: Search Results

Typhoid Mary Poster

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New York American, TYPHOID MARY POSTER (1909). Courtesy of the University of North Carolina, School of Public Health.

Creator New York American
Context The case of "Typhoid Mary" was relevant to urban health reformers who tried to control the spread of contagious diseases.
Audience Readers of the New York American
Purpose To publicize Mary Mallon's quarantine because of typhoid

Historical Significance

An Irish immigrant named Mary Mallon became the nation's first known carrier of typhoid fever, a bacterial disease transmitted by poor sanitation. Between 1900 and 1907, she infected 22 people while working as a cook in private homes around New York City. As she changed employment, she continued to spread the disease until the health inspector investigated the case and concluded that Mary Mallon was the carrier. The issue of Mary Mallon's quarantine went to trial in 1909, and the judge sided with the Department of Health's decision to isolate an individual citizen in order to protect the heath of the general public. After three years of isolation, the health inspector released her on the condition that she would not work in any job preparing or serving. In 1915, however, she infected 25 people while employed as a cook at Sloan Hospital, resulting in two deaths. The Department of Health quarantined Mary Mallon for life. After dying of pneumonia in 1938, an autopsy discovered live typhoid bacteria in her gallbladder.

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