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Typhoid Mary - The Most Dangerous Woman in America   -  Discontinued

Typhoid Mary - The Most Dangerous Woman in America

Item Number:
60 min.
Closed Caption:
WGBH Boston Video
The notorious life of "Typhoid Mary."

When six members of a wealthy family contracted typhoid fever in posh Oyster Bay, Long Island, in August 1906, one question puzzled everyone: how could such an upscale summer enclave become infected with this highly contagious "slum disease"? Hired to perform the bacterial detective work, George Soper soon discovered the source of the outbreak was Mary Mallon, a 37-year-old Irish immigrant cook he feared was a "walking typhoid fever factory." But how could this seemingly healthy woman, with no outward symptoms, infect so many people?

At a time when the concept of communicable diseases was not widely understood, the story of "Typhoid Mary" pitted the new science of bacteriology against ancient terrors. Mary's banishment to a quarantine island off Manhattan against her will also revealed the newfound power of health officials who protected the masses while violating individual liberties. Today, with the presence of SARS, HIV-AIDS, influenza, and ebola, public health policies continue to search for the proper balance of protection and freedom.

With stirring dramatizations featuring Marian Tomas Griffin (As the World Turns) and Tony Award-nominee Jere Shea (Guys and Dolls), NOVA shares Mary Mallon's dangerous tale, based on the acclaimed book Typhoid Mary: Captive to the Public's Health by Judith Walzer Leavitt.

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