On March 27, 1915, Mary Mallon, popularly and scandalously known as “Typhoid Mary,” was put in quarantine, where she would remain for the rest of her life, over 23 years incarcerated.
Ms. Mallon was the first healthy carrier of disease ever identified in the United States. As an asymptomatic carrier of typhoid, she was a puzzle to science, and, once discovered, an apparent threat to those around her, with at least three deaths attributable to her presence. She did not co-operate with officials, and preferred to work as a cook, which paid higher wages than less dangerous-to-the-public occupations. She had been quarantined once before her final permanent quarantine in a hospital.
The civil liberties aspect to her incarceration loom large, and it is obvious that health officials of her time were not exactly any more respectful of her rights than she was with those of her clients and neighbors. The case was an obvious turning point in American legal practice, and can be categorized along with eugenics and “social hygiene” — along with prohibition regarding alcohol and recreational drugs — in the increasing illiberality of legal practice in America in the early part of the 20th century.
That being the case, Typhoid Mary was the very opposite of a heroine.