Tag Archives: Typhoid Mary

A Tale of Typhoid Mary

hellgate2Step back in time to the early 20th century when typhoid fever ran rampant through the streets of one of the most populous cities in America, New York City.  Mary Mallon had come to America as a fourteen year old girl from Ireland with hopes of finding a position as a housekeeper. It took a bit of doing but Mary worked hard and it wouldn’t be too many years before she became an accomplished cook, much sought after by well to do families. She was content, this move had been a good one.

But what Mary didn’t know was that she would shortly become infamous for something more than cooking. Mary was a carrier of the deadly disease typhoid. Without knowing it she would pass the disease on to others, children and adults alike, some whom would never recover. She would be hunted down, separated from friends, stopped from doing the only job she for which she was equipped and given a name that would follow her the rest of her life. Mary Mallon was Typhoid Mary.

After the authorities, finally caught up with Mary they imprisoned her on North Brother Island. Hell Gate was a place of indescribable misery and horror for the sick, the dying and the condemned. Where, Mary would live her final days in denial of the charges against her.

Now travel to the present and meet Karalee Soper, granddaughter of George A. Soper.  Soper was Mary’s accuser and jailer, the man who consigned Mary to her life sentence on Hell Gate.  Karalee along with a group of friends, known as the Sewer Rats, were studying public health. Seeking a bit of fun, they set sail on a short boat trip searching out abandoned building taking pictures and exploring wreckage. Hell Gate Island had once housed a tuberculosis hospital, now all that is left is ruins and building covered in vines and trees.

Shortly after their arrival, they discover the boat they used to land on the island was severely damaged, soon to sink into the murky depths a.  Now stuck on the island with few food rations, the clothes on their back, Karalee’s new Nikon 35mm camera, and few other tools. Not wanting to be marooned on this eerie island with its over grown dilapidated ruins, they went in search of a means to get back home. Gilligan’s Island it ain’t!staircase

As the night closed in with no way off the island, Karalee sees what appears to be an apparition coming toward them.  As the figure gets closer Karalee realizes it isn’t a specter but a real live, living, breathing person. But, who is it? Surely Mary Mallon was dead after all these years and who could live among the ruins with its smell of death and decay.

Step on to Hell Gate Island and into a tale of horror with enough twists and turns to keep the reader jumping at every little sound, as one by one the Sewer Rats begin disappearing. Will anyone survive The Prisoner of Hell Gate?

This is Dana I. Wolff’s debut novel.

Formats Available: Book

Reviewed by MicahShawnee Branch

Fatal Fever: Tracking Down Typhoid Mary by Gail Jarrow

fatalfeverWho was Typhoid Mary? Was she a villain or victim?  Were her assessors after fame or just doing their job?  Or was Mary just the scapegoat for officials who waited too long to clean up their cities?

Typhoid fever at first caused headaches and fatigue, then by a high fever, stomach pain, chills, and a red rash. One out of three people who contracted typhoid died. And as the deadly disease broke out in New York cities, thousands died.

George Soper’s job as a sanitation engineer made him an expert on germs that caused disease. Now it was his job to stop this contagious disease from spreading.  He found the filthy living conditions in cities, with their open sewers, contaminated water, dead animals in the streets and horse manure  were spreading disease and death. Soper came to show the city officials how to clean up their streets but he found more.

He found a cook named Mary Mallon.  She was a young teen when she crossed the ocean to America from Ireland. She learned her trade as a cook the hard way, working as scullery maid, until she mastered the knowledge to become a cook to the very rich.  She also was believed to be a carrier of millions of typhoid germs.

Hell Gate was an island in New York’s East River originally set up to quarantine smallpox victims.  By the turn of the century, a hospital there held anyone  who needed to be isolated and forgotten.  Mary was imprisoned on Hell Gate, released, and later returned to quarantine when found to have return to her original occupation.

Mary died in captivity at the age of 69.  She never offered her side of the story. All that is known of Mary’s beliefs were that she never saw herself to be sick or to be the source of the various outbreaks of typhoid left in her wake.

 

hellgate

Hell Gate Hospital today.

A tale straight out of the history books – laced with original photos, documents, illustrations and cartoons from newspapers and magazines – yet it reads like a murder mystery. This is a good read but would equally make a good source for a school report.

You be the judge.  Pick up Fatal Fever: Tracking Down Typhoid Mary by Gail Jarrow.

Note: The illustrated cartoon demonstrating how flies spread the disease was drawn by illustrator Vernon Grant who would later draw Kellogg’s Snap, Crackle and Pop.

Format Available: Book

Reviewed by Katy, Shawnee Branch