I learned about Typhoid Mary today (by “learned” I mean read the Typhoid Mary wikipedia entry). I’d heard the term before, but knew nothing about her.
She was real! Here’s a picture of her:
Her name was Mary Mallon, and she was a cook.
To give you the general gist, she’s of historical interest because she was the first asymptomatic carrier in America of Typhoid Fever, a bit of a patient zero, if you will. But that’s not the bit that I found the most interesting. The astonishing part about her life for me was threefold:
- Despite presumably being taught about hygiene, she point blank refused to wash her hands before preparing food.
Even after she was told that she was killing people by not doing it.
- Despite lab results proving that she was carrying the disease, and nearly every house she worked in falling prey to the disease (including at least three people who died), she point blank refused to believe she was the one passing it on and maintained that she was not carrying it.
- She was only released from quarantine under assurances that she would give up her occupation as a cook and find other work. Once she was out, however, Mary just changed her name and started working as a cook again.
Now, I think we all know a Typhoid Mary. Someone who just doesn’t care what you say or what huge piles of completely rational evidence you heap in front of them; they’ll just do whatever it is that they feel like, because they’re never wrong and they don’t have to listen to anyone.
I’ve worked with several and I’m related to at least two.
At least now we have a name for them.