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Primary Sources - Workshop in American History Disease and Historyhomesitemap
Introduction -Link Before You Watch - link Lectures and Activities Classroom and Applications - Link

Workshop 7: Lectures & Activities


Activity One:
What Should Be Done About Mary Mallon?

After viewing Lecture One, analyze the documents. You will determine if Mary Mallon, an alleged typhoid carrier, should be quarantined or set free. First, take the role of a public health official and argue the case for Mary Mallon's continued quarantine in the name of public health. Write down each argument, point by point. Use the questions to guide your analysis.Link to facilitators' notes

Next, take the other side of the argument. As a friend or supporter of Mary Mallon, make the case that Mary should be set free. Counter each point on the list you wrote in Part 1.

Note: This activity has two sets of questions: those that relate to specific documents and appear on each document page and more general, "big picture" questions listed below. You may begin with general or specific questions depending upon your preference.


Consider These Questions

• 

Why was Mary Mallon chosen for quarantine?

• 

What were the efforts to clean up the city and eliminate typhoid?

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Are there limits to government control in this case? Was there public policy on law in place at the time to guide public health officials?

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Is it fair and acceptable to incarcerate noncriminal individuals in the name of public health? On what basis?


Image of Evelynn Hammonds

"For public health experts, the germ theory proved to be especially rewarding, making visible the agents of disease in water, food, and blood. And by the 1910s, physicians were provided with precise tests to identify a variety of diseases. And so the germ theory seemed to promise a precision, not only in the diagnosis of disease, but also in the prevention of disease. And proponents of public health adopted a new approach to their work. "
— Evelynn Hammonds


  Primary Sources: Documents

(Click here for information on using primary source documents)

 

image of a generic historical documentTyphoid Mary: Captive to the Public's Health, Judith Walzer Leavitt, Chapter 3, "A Menace to the Community," Law and the Limits of Liberty

This chapter gives a legal perspective to the case of Mary Mallon (a.k.a. "Typhoid Mary"), a known typhoid carrier, based on historical research and conclusions gathered by the author.


image of a generic historical documentThe Work of a Chronic Typhoid Germ Distributor, George A. Soper, Ph.D.

This paper describes George Soper's investigation of an outbreak of typhoid that he attributed to Mary Mallon.


image of a generic historical documentTyphoid Bacilli Carriers, William H. Park, M.D.

A paper written by William H. Park, the physician who directed the bacteriological laboratory at the New York City Department of Health, discusses typhoid carriers at a meeting of the American Medical Association.



  Primary Sources: Images

(Click here for information on using images)

 

Thumbnail image of an Immunization CertificateImmunization Certificate

Health certificates, like this one from the U.S. Public Health Service, were issued to children traveling during the 1916 infantile paralysis epidemic. As the disease spread throughout America's cities, the certificates were an attempt to quell public hysteria over infected children moving from place to place. In New York City alone, more than 68,000 certificates had been issued by the end of the epidemic. The certificates reinforced the popular belief that contagious diseases were linked to particular locations.
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Thumbnail image of an infant sitting in a windowInfantile Paralysis Placard Photograph

From 1900 to 1920, infantile paralysis was considered a disease of the nation's poorest children, festering in dirty, immigrant-filled slums. This photo forces viewers to confront the reality of infantile paralysis and the lives it touched. To the left of the mother and child, a placard pronounces in bold letters, "Infantile Paralysis ... KEEP OFF THIS STREET." Placards were typically pasted on tenements and multi-family dwellings by the health department to enforce quarantine rules, a measure that spoke to the growing power and concern of the health department over the lives of infected families. In cities like New York, Philadelphia, and Newark, placards written in Italian, Yiddish, and Slavic languages warned residents about the connections between disease and unsanitary living.
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Thumbnail image of a newspaper cartoonBureau of Public Health Poster

In 1915, the Bureau of Public Health Education was established in New York City. With its pamphlets, posters, lectures, and slides, the Bureau, convinced that polio was borne in germ-laden settings, set out to educate the city's poor, especially mothers, and gave homemakers specific ways to keep their homes and children clean.
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