To the editor: 

 "Typhoid Mary" was a good person. She had a difficult life, facing hunger as a child in 1870s Ireland.

As a teenager, she put everything she had into coming to America. When she got here, she found work in the kitchen of a mansion. At last, she could eat. She rose fast in the kitchen, becoming a manager on her natural talent and strong work ethic.

 She was, however, what we today would call a “superspreader” of typhus. Typhus was a foodborne illness. As such, being a kitchen worker was disastrous. She was eventually tied to 51 infections and three deaths.

 By the 1890s, people were only beginning to come to understand germs. Mary was told she was breathing out “invisible bugs” and was harming, even killing, people. She thought “invisible bugs” was hogwash. She wasn’t harming anybody, would never think of such a thing. She only wanted to eat, to work, to live freely.

 She thought she was being made a scapegoat for this terrible disease going around. She was told she could go free but could never work with food again. She was devastated. The authorities were blaming her and holding her against her will. She agreed to find other work and was let go.

But she was outraged. So she changed her name and found new kitchen work. She was caught again. She was given chances but she always ran and found new kitchen work. It was what she liked and did best.

Eventually, the authorities got fed up with her. They locked her up. She spent the last 20-plus years of her life institutionalized.

 The question is: Was Mary’s personal freedom more important than public safety? There really are “invisible bugs” out there. She really was killing people.

 Today, we are all "Typhoid Marys." Our personal freedom is not at stake when we are told to wear a mask. Freedom has never been absolute. You can’t yell “fire” in a crowded theater. You must stop at a red light.

 It is not possible to lock everybody up even when we are all "Typhoid Marys." So wear a mask wash your hands, etc. It is not about your personal freedom.

Andrew Mungo


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