Judith Walzer Leavitt's Typhoid Mary Essay

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Judith Walzer Leavitt's Typhoid Mary details the life of Mary Mallon, one of the first known carriers of the typhoid disease. Leavitt constructs her book by outlining the various perspectives that went into the decisions made concerning Mary Mallon's life. These perspectives help explain why she was cast aside for most of her life and is still a household catchphrase today. Leavitt paints a picture of the relationship between science and society and particularly shows how Mallon was an unfortunate example of how science can be uneven when it is applied to public policy. This paper will focus on the subjectivity of science and its' interaction with social factors which allowed health officials to “lock[ing] up one person …show more content…
While she lived alone in a quaint cottage with little social interaction, the media made her into an iconic symbol of that of a menace, or hazard to society. Why she was the only known typhoid carrier to be kept quarantined for most of her life one can not fully be sure of. However, Leavitt paints a picture of Mallon's relationship to society, public health officials, and the media which can explain why. Leavitt suggests many reasons why Mallon was targeted out of thousands to be quarantined away from society for so many years. For one, Mallon was a woman, which gave her a lower status in society and caused her to be treated unfairly by public health policy officials. From the public health officials perspective, it was noted that, “males were lost to the registry more often than females” when it came to what carriers were being tracked by the officials (Leavitt 59). The fact that male carriers were observed less than female carriers shows how public health policy tends to favor males. From the legal perspective, Mallon was disadvantaged as well. News spread of a “Typhoid John”, a male typhoid carrier who was known to have infected more people with the disease than Mallon did, but the Supreme Court ruling case did not demand his isolation (Leavitt 93). Was John able to live more freely than Mallon because he was a man and thus more highly valued in

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