Friday, 5 June 2009

Crazy dudes of history




Mary Mallon, a 19th century cook went on to coin a particurley famous phrase.

And why? Because bitch be crazy, yo.

Mallon (born 1869 died 1938) was an irish immigrant who worked as a professional chef for rich families and the like, living in the USA. When a number of the families she worked for contracted typhoid authorities started to note the pattern and tracked her down, not suffering the disease herself (nor ever, according to her) they did some tests and discovered she was an asymptomatic carrier (probably picking it up in the womb.)

Typhoid is an infection usually caused by poor faeces management or by carriers working with food/drink. It was a lot more common in the past, now its nearly never seen in Europe/USA but still a problem to a degree in less developed countries. It was originally named TheShitOfDeath disease but it didnt catch on.

Now, you are a chef, you find out your bodily fluids have an infectious (and fatal) disease on them and it takes hella scrubbing just to give a decent chance that you wont have it on your hands and give it to anyone who eats your food... what do you do?

In Marys case, fuck all. She vehemently denied having the disease, even after being tested. She was quarantined under public health legislation for a number of years before a new commissioner realising this unique situation probably required a bit of tact, had her sign some paper work making her promise to never work in food prep or related industries again and be careful and stuff with her hands of death, let her go.

But Mary, being a bit of a character, finding out that her only other skills (laundry work, she is a woman, you see) didnt pay as well as cookery, decided "fuck that" changed her name and started working as a cook again.

More people were infected and eventually she was caught again and put into a quarantine that lasted the rest of her life. She was fairly unrepentant and insistent she didnt carry the disease right until she passed on. Got to appreciate that Irish stubborn streak.

Shes remembered in the phrase "typhoid mary", of course. At the time, the papers made a big deal out of her as an unforgiving dealer of death. She was like an early supervillain, passing out death with her hands under assumed names for some evil masterplan. Sadly there was no early 19th century superheroes to fight her off, captain industry or whatever never turned up to kick her ass with the power of the steam rocket.

In reality she was just an ignorant stubborn woman who probably really believed she didnt carry the disease and just couldnt fathom or trust the science that proved she did. So its kind of sad that she had to remain in quarantine her whole life, never really comprehending or believing why.

She wasnt the first or only asymptomatic carrier around, but she was the most crazy and thats why she gets the cool phrase named for her.

(She is known to have infected 53 people with the disease, 3 of which died)