A Light to My Path is the third book in the series and it tells of a young slave girl who is taken into the Big House to serve as a companion for the mistresses daughter. This novel is full of heart-felt moments and the reality of a young girl who is slave to a pampered brat.
I enjoyed both of these books and being a Civil War buff, I enjoyed the historical background in which the novel was set.
Typhoid Mary: Captive to the Public's Health
Author: Judith Walzer Leavitt
Publisher: Beacon Press
Early in the 20th century, New York City was home to thousands of immigrants. In 1904, an elite family came down with typhoid while vacationing on Oyster Island, a vacation resort for the famous and wealthy, including President Roosevelt.
Since typhoid was a disease believed to be caused by filth, squalor and unsanitary conditions, no one could figure out how a well-to-do family would get it. An investigation was begun by the New York City's Department of Health.
After some time, the Department of Health traced the typhoid back to a woman named Mary Mallon, a 37 year-old Irish woman who was a cook for the elite of New York. Apparently Mary was a carrier and though she would never actually get typhoid herself, she could and did pass it on to other people. Mary was very uncooperative and would not give samples needed for the Department of Health to determine just how she was passing on typhoid.
In 1907, Health Department officers arrested Mary and forcibly exiled her to a solitary existence in a cottage on North Brother Island. Everyone in New York was talking about Typhoid Mary, but she was determined not to give up the fight. She and her lawyer took the Department of Health to court to petition for her freedom. The judge ruled in favor of the Department of Health and Typhoid Mary was banned once again to her cottage on North Brother Island.
Eventually, Mary was allowed to return to New York to work as a laundress. Mary was admonished to stay out of the kitchen, as the typhoid germs were being passed on in the foods that she cooked. Two years later, typhoid broke out in a New York hospital. When Health Department officials visited the kitchen, they found Mary Mallon working there as a cook. Once again, Mary was exiled to a solitary existence in the cottage on North Brother Island, where she lived until her death in 1938. In all, Mary had infected 47 people - 3 of those had died.
Leavitt raises many questions in her book. Mary Mallon was a carrier of typhus bacillus, but so were many others in those days. Mary had the distinction of being the first ever carrier to be identified as such. Many men were also carriers but were never forced to live in quarantine and isolation. Was Mary's confinement due to race, gender and class?
At the time the Irish weren't exactly popular in New York. Many had come to America and ended up living in squalor. They were often blamed for spreading disease within the City. Mary was the only person ever put under isolated quarantine for being a carried of typhoid.
Disease ran rampant in New York until the streets were cleaned up by an army of sanitation workers. Leavitt does a marvelous job demonstrating the delicate balance between person freedom and public health. This book, though a little repetitious and slow at the beginning, was a great read about a time in American history that is seldom spoken of today.
I hope that you enjoyed learning about the books that I've been reading for the last few months. I've read others, many of which also had to do with history. If you want a light read, these books are not for you, but if you love history, you'll definitely enjoy any of them.
This weekend, take time to sit out on the patio and pamper yourself for a while by reading a great book. Have a safe and enjoyable weekend. ~Blessings, Mary~