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May 26 , 2011

Relentless: The Search For Typhoid Mary


In 1906 Dr. George Soper was asked to investigate a mysterious outbreak of typhoid in Oyster Bay, New York - home of the summer White House of President Theodore Roosevelt. The investigation - fascinating in its own right - identified the first known typhoid carrier - an Irish immigrant named Mary Mallon. It it's own right this story is one of the most fascinating medical mysteries ever written.

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Mary Mallon came to America at age 15. She researched the opportunities available to her and learned that the best jobs for single women who were Irish immigrants was as cooks. She worked her way up the ladder to the level of cook for New York's wealthy families. It was her success as a cook that determined her persecution by the New York Department of Health.

Mary has never had a voice in the reporting of her history - a history largely written by George Soper himself. Relentless: The Search For Typhoid Mary gives her a voice, turns her from the greedy villain she is usually accused of being into a woman who conducted her own investigation of the accusation in these early years of microbiology and her scientists found her innocent of all charges. Nevertheless, without trial or hearing, she was thrown into solitary confinement on a prison hospital. Her crimes included being a single woman, being Irish, being an immigrant, being unattractive and most important - causing the death of a child of New York's wealthy population. This is a riveting story about one of the most unusual women of modern American history.

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