6. Typhoid Mary Epitomized the Decline of North Brother Island as a Medical Facility

Mason in North Brother Island, The Last Unknown Place in New York City, after the initial success in controlling epidemics in New York City, North Brother Island “soon became a place of moral compromise, lax care, and anti-immigrant discrimination.” The infamous Typhoid Mary (aka Mary Mellon) was simply a figure that epitomized the challenges and forthcoming decline to come to North Brother Island. She was a healthy carrier of typhus and worked as a cook for the upper classes of New York.

She infected more than twenty people and was first sent to North Brother Island from 1907 to 1910. She was released on the condition that she could not work as a cook, but continued to do so under an alias where she infected more. She was sent back to North Brother Island for life from 1915 to her death in 1938. She lived in a small house built just for her so that she could be in complete isolation. In the book Feverabout Typhoid Mary, Mary Beth Keane writes “I really believe that, if she had infected a tenement with hundreds of people in it, and far more deaths had been the result, she wouldn’t have been put in the position she was in, working as she did for a wealthy family.”