Because of the minors I have (Political Communication and Sociology), and the interest that lead me to those minors in the first place, I love books about people, their struggles, and how they fit into the large social movement. I especially enjoy studying the lives of women in the early 1900s and their movements to become independent and educated…and in the process get really upset about all the stupid things the larger society did to prevent their freedom from the traditional patriarchal social structure, which is why I was interested in the book Typhoid Mary: An Urban Historical.

Typhoid Mary

Mary Mallon was an Irish immigrant living and working in New York as a cook. She was identified as having typhoid, a deadly and much feared disease with no known cure at that time, and unknowingly infecting the households she worked in. The story is amazing: an Irish immigrant making a life for herself as a strong and independent woman. The life she escaped in Ireland, and the success she had in America is a tribute to her strength and dedication.

The writing in this book, however, does no justice to the subject. I found it to read more like a tabloid story than a well researched, historical account. The tone is very sensationalist, and even sarcastic in parts. The only part of the book I enjoyed was the 4th chapter, “The New Woman.” It explains the reason American society was changing, and how women were able to start the process of becoming independent and step out of their traditional roles of mother and house wife. The reason I liked this chapter is because it relates to another book I’m reading on the subject.

If you like historical, scholarly books, don’t read this. If the story of Mary Mallon is interesting, find other, more serious and credible sources. It’s worth looking into.

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