Terrible Typhoid Mary

Posted 20 May 2022 by Kim in Book Reviews | ,

Terrible Typhoid MaryTerrible Typhoid Mary: A True Story of the Deadliest Cook in America by Susan Campbell Bartoletti
Published: 4 August 2015
Publisher: Clarion Books
Genres: nonfiction
Pages: 229
Source: library
Format: Hardcover
Buy/Shelve it: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | BookBub | BookHype | Goodreads
Rating: five-stars


the blurb

What happens when a person's reputation has been forever damaged?

With archival photographs and text among other primary sources, this riveting biography of Mary Mallon by the Sibert medalist and Newbery Honor winner Susan Bartoletti looks beyond the tabloid scandal of Mary's controversial life.

How she was treated by medical and legal officials reveals a lesser-known story of human and constitutional rights, entangled with the science of pathology and enduring questions about who Mary Mallon really was.

How did her name become synonymous with deadly disease? And who is really responsible for the lasting legacy of Typhoid Mary?

This thorough exploration includes an author's note, timeline, annotated source notes, and bibliography.

my review

I thought I knew the story of Typhoid Mary. I was wrong. I only knew one small snippet of her story.

Mary Mallon was an Irish immigrant, and naturalized US citizen, who worked as a cook from some of the wealthy elite in the early 1900s. It was a job that, for the time, was well paid and much sought after, especially for an immigrant woman. It was also a job that put her at the center of the spread of typhoid within the NYC area.

Over time, the story has, in many ways, dehumanized the real-life Mary, much in the way Lizzie Borden has become a figure of tales, almost fictional. But the truth of Mary’s story really illuminates aspects of her life that most of us probably don’t know. Including the fact that Mary was not the only carrier of typhoid, nor even responsible for the majority of cases. Yet she was the only one treated the way she was, causing her to become the demonized face of the epidemic.

The book is more than an historical account of the typhoid epidemic. It’s also a commentary on civil rights versus public health, of the treatment of women and immigrants, of yellow journalism, of questionable medical knowledge, of sheer misogyny.

I highly recomment this book!

About Susan Campbell Bartoletti

Susan Campbell Bartoletti is an American writer of children’s literature. She was born in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, but eventually the family ended up in a small town in northeastern Pennsylvania. Susan started as an English teacher and inspired many students before deciding to pursue writing in earnest. She sold her first short story in 1989. Three years later in 1992 she published her first picture book, Silver at Night. She held a rigid routine, awaking early in the morning in order to write before she left to teach. In 1997 she turned to writing full time. Susan has since returned to inspiring future writers. She teaches writing classes at a number of MA and MFA programs, among them Spalding University in Louisville, Kentucky, and Hollins University in Roanoke, Virginia. Additionally she leads workshops offered through the Highlights Foundation.

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