Join the search for Typhoid Mary in this early twentieth-century CSI. Now in paperback!
Prudence Galewski doesn’t belong in Mrs. Browning’s esteemed School for Girls. She doesn’t want an “appropriate” job that makes use of refinement and charm. Instead, she is fascinated by how the human body works—and why it fails.
Prudence is lucky to land a position in a laboratory, where she is swept into an investigation of a mysterious fever. From ritzy mansions to shady bars and rundown tenements, Prudence explores every potential cause of the disease to no avail—until the volatile Mary Mallon emerges. Dubbed “Typhoid Mary” by the press, Mary is an Irish immigrant who has worked as a cook in every home the fever has ravaged. But she’s never been sick a day in her life. Is the accusation against her an act of discrimination? Or is she the first clue in solving one of the greatest medical mysteries of the twentieth century?
1. How did the girl’s school help maintain stereotypes of women during that time? Why do you think Prudence longs for “a job that’s meaningful
2. What does Mary’s reaction to Mr. Soper and Prudence’s visit tell you about the stereotype of the Irish immigrants in America?
3. Why do you think it was so easy to spread diseases in the early 1900s?
4. Why do Prudence and her mother want to think of themselves only as American and nothing else? Was this true of most immigrants at this time in history? Explain your answer.
5. Prudence is leaving the girls’ school to work full-time with Mr. Soper. Do you think this was a good idea or not? Explain your position.
6. What conflict does Prudence struggle with as Mr. Soper tries to find Mary and get her to cooperate?
7. What is your opinion of the way the Mary Mallon case was handled by the health department? Do you think they did the right thing in capturing Mary like they did? Explain your answers by using supporting details. What would you have done differently?
8. Read the newspaper account on pages 246–248. Whose side does the newspaper seem to be taking? What facts does it contain? What name have they given Mary?
9. Why are other servants and Mary’s employers so uncooperative with Mr. Soper about stopping Mary Mallon from continuing her work?
10. Why is Prudence keeping the news of her father to herself? Do you agree with her decision? Explain.
11. The judge says: “It’s not a question of innocence or guilt, but a matter of circumstance.” How is this different from most trials? Do you think this was any consolation to Mary or her followers?
Julie Chibbaro grew up in New York City wondering how so many people could live together without infecting each other with mortal diseases. After attending Performing Arts High School for theater, she ran away to Mexico, where she survived an earthquake and a motorcycle crash and learned a little something about death. Returning to New York, she decided to create her own fictional characters instead of playing one. Julie Chibbaro is the author of Redemption, which won the 2005 American Book Award. Julie teaches fiction and creative writing in New York. You can also visit her at juliechibbaro.com.