Friday, April 25

Back to History Reading Challenge

I thought it was time to update everyone on the Back to History Reading Challenge that was issued by Shannon at Shannon's Reading Log. Yes, I've been keeping up to the challenge and read at least one book a month and often more. Here is what I've been reading.

In January, I read Candle in the Darkness and posted a review on that book. I have been reading the other books in the Refiner's Fire series.
February's Selection:
The second book in the series is Fire by Night. In this book the tragedy of the Civil War unfolds through the eyes of two young northern women. One, Julia Hoffman, has been deceived by a life of wealth. Phoebe, a former slave is running away from her true identity. Both of these young women have to cope with their problems while their country is being torn apart by war. A look at the conflicts of the Civil War, both personal and political.

March's Selection:

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.

April's Selection:

Typhoid Mary: Captive to the Public's Health

Author: Judith Walzer Leavitt

Publisher: Beacon Press

ISBN: 0807021032

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~


  1. Sounds like great readings for you!!
    I have not read much this past winter, but I will start up again soon. Have a great weekend Mary:)

  2. Mary,looks like you have some great tastes in your reading.Good for you!

  3. Loved your book revues, and that picture of your mom is precious! Hope your husband gets good reports.

  4. Awesome book reviews my friend.

  5. Typhoid Mary is a book my MamaMia would be interested in as she is considering do a master's in public health. Thanks for sharing the review!

    My reading is getting done but not the reviews. I guess I'll have to do one long catch up post, too.

  6. Good afternoon Mary...

    I have been painting on my pelican work in progress and didn't like how this one part turned out, so I gave up for a while before I ruin the whole thing, I came in to check my comments and your sweet words were like a good friend beside me helping me with the troubled art work...saying 'there, there, now --don't give up' ROFL I get so flustered sometimes I'm ready to toss it all in the garbage. But I'll let it dry and stay away from it for a day or two and see if I can 'fix' the area I don't like.

    So, you're a CLUE player too then, huh? We used to play that game by the hours and laugh and have so much fun. I'm glad to hear it's still popular. Without kids around the house it's difficult to know just what they like now-a-days.

    Your book selection sounds terrific. [I put down the on on Mary Todd Lincoln 'cause I saw a Lifetime movie advertisement about a Down Syndrome Baby being born of twins, and I thought...."Hmmmm, sounds something I'd like to read"...but it's been turned way off track and becoming a romance novel....of which I DON'T LIKE. So, I am compelled to find out what happens to the Down's girl - yet, have to read through all the rest of the nonsense.

    Sorry...that became a novel.
    Hope your day is a good one so far.

    Sending hugs your way.

  7. Sounds like an interesting series of books.
    Mama Bear

  8. All of your books sound really good and I've added them to my "want to read" list. The one about Typhoid Mary sounds especially interesting~

  9. Mary,

    Looks like a great reading list. It sounds as though the author of the book about Typhoid Mary tried hard to be objective. Those are excellent points about the treatment this one woman got in comparison to what happened to others. Thanks for the reviews!


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