Friday, January 29, 2010

Mary Jemison (1743 - 1833)

I was born to Thomas and Jane Jemison aboard the ship William and Mary in the fall of 1743 while en route from Northern Ireland to America.  Upon our arrival in America, my parents joined other Irish American immigrants and headed west from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to what was then the western frontier (now central Pennsylvania) and squatted on territory that was under the authority of the Iroquois Confederacy.

During the time my parents were establishing our home, the French and Indian War was raging. One morning in 1755, a capturing party consisting of six Shawnee Indians and four Frenchmen captured me, my family (except for my two older brothers) and Davy Wheelock a boy from another family. 

On route to Fort Duquesne (where the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers meet to create the Ohio River in modern-day Pittsburgh), my mother, father, and siblings were killed and scalped.  I and the other young boy were spared.  Once the party reached the Fort, I was given to two Seneca Indians, who took me downriver.  The Senecas adopted me, calling me Deh-he-wä-mis, which means - a pretty girl, a handsome girl, or a pleasant, good thing.  I was later renamed "little woman of great courage" by the Indians.

I married a Delaware named Sheninjee and had a son who I named Thomas after my father.  Concerned that the end of the war would mean the return of captives, Sheninjee took me on a 700-mile (1,100 km) journey to the Sehgahunda Valley along the Genesee River.  Although I reached this destination, my husband did not. He had left me in order to hunt, had took ill and died.

Now a widow, I was taken in by Sheninjee's clan relatives and made my home at the Little Beard's Town (present-day Cuylerville, New York).  I married a Seneca named Hiakatoo and had six more children.

Much of the land at Little Beard's Town was sold by the Senecas to white settlers in 1797.  At that time, during negotiations with the Holland Land Company held at Geneseo, New York, I proved to be an able negotiator for the Seneca tribe and helped win more favorable terms for giving up their rights to the land at the Treaty of Big Tree.

In 1823, most of the remainder of the land was sold, except for a 2-acre (8,100 m2) tract of land reserved for my use.  Known locally as the "White Woman of the Genesee", I lived on the tract until I sold it in 1831 and moved to the Buffalo Creek Reservation.

I lived the rest of my life with the people of the Seneca Nation until I died on September 19, 1833.  I was initially buried on the Buffalo Creek Reservation, but in 1874 was reinterred at William Pryor Letchworth's Glen Iris Estate (now Letchworth State Park in present day Castile, New York). A bronze statue of me, created in 1910, marks my grave.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Wordless Wednesday - Flaming June

Flaming June
Lord Frederick Leighton

Monday, January 25, 2010

Eugenia of Rome

The best of scriptwriters would be hard pressed to match, let alone exceed, my true to life story. It is said that I resorted to what might have been called excesses. At a time when society confined most women to the home, I expressed my independence with such resourcefulness that I showed myself not only the equal to any man, but better than most.

My name is Eugenia, which is the Greek word for noble, an adjective that falls short of describing me astounding character, one that seldom is attained by either sex. I was born in 280 A.D., the daughter of the Duke of Alexandria, Egypt, whose name was Philip and who ruled in the name of the emperor in the land of Pharaohs. I enjoyed every privilege, except that reserved for men, who were free to choose their way of life. A woman of high or low rank could no more wear the churchman scowl than a warrior's armor.

I was not born a Christian but was converted in my youth without the knowledge of my parents who were strongly opposed to the new religion. When it came time to screen suitors for my inevitable marriage, usually one of convenience for the aristocracy, I slipped away, accompanied by a pair of faithful servants, Protas and Hyakinthos, who escorted me to an area far enough removed from my home to assure obscurity. Nearby was a monastery upon which I would look with longing to serve Christ, only to be reminded that only men could serve within this cloister. I hit upon the idea of posing as a man and after some persuasion, convinced my two servants to cut my tresses and accompany me to the monastery to help in my admission. The deception was an immediate failure because the perceptive Abbot Helenon saw at once my delicate features and found no trace of masculinity in my lowered voice. He was so moved, however, by my sincerity that he provided for me stay there, isolating me in a cell where I remained for a number of years in meditation and prayer and in all the studies required of a monk. Finally, I was actually tonsured a monk and any doubt as to my proximity to God were erased when I was found to have the power of healing.

I left the confines of the monastery from time to time in order to be among my fellow Christians and it was during one of these visits that I fell prey to prowling state soldiers ever on the alert for church leaders. Arrested on the usual charge of treason, I was summoned before the duke of judgment (my father) which customarily offered a choice between denying Christ or death. In a dramatic moment my father recognized me, his accused daughter, whom he had presumed dead, and tearfully embraced me, dismissing the entire court to be alone with me.

The joy of being reunited with me brought the even greater joy of learning from my lips about Christianity, with the result that I converted my father to Christianity. This amazing turn of events became all the: more amazing when it is realized that my father, this very same pagan Duke Philip, turned to Christ with so much genuine love that he became a churchman himself and rose to be the archbishop of Alexandria. It was a far higher calling but far less rewarding in earthly considerations. Sought after by the very people who in prior years had sought only to protect him, he was assassinated.

Meanwhile I had gone to Rome to be in the heart of the political and cultural center of the world where I won so many converts to Christianity that I, too, became a target for the pagan state. When finally caught, I remained steadfast in my faith and met death by sword, after which my body was thrown into the Tiber River, only to be recovered by Christians. Although I was martyred on December 25, my memory is observed a day earlier.


Weekend Chef - Pasta con Piselli

I decided to start posting an Italian recipe every Friday for those of us courageous enough to venture into the kitchen. Some recipes will be from my secret family collection. Others may be recipes I will try that particular weekend. So if you'd like to try the recipes out with me, I'd love to hear your comments.

Here's my first recipe. This one is a tried and true family favourite.


Pasta Con Piselli

This is one recipe that I make often. No matter what changes I make to it or what I add to it, it always tastes great.

1 medium chopped onion

4 cloves minced garlic

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil



1/4 cup butter

1 cup broth


Saute onion and garlic in olive oil and butter

Add ham, peas, and broth. Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes or until the pasta finishes cooking. Toss onto cooked pasta.


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Lucy Maud Montgomery (1873 - 1942)

Lucy Maud Montgomery MacDonald (1874-1942) is one of Canada's best known and most enduring authors. Her family always called her “Maud”.

She was born on November 30, 1874, in Clifton, Prince Edward Island. Her father, Hugh Montgomery, was a former sea captain who later became a merchant. Her mother was Clara Macneill Montgomery born of a large and prominent family in Prince Edward Island. Clara died when Maud was two years old. Stricken by grief, and unable to care for his toddler daughter, her father sent Maud to live with her strict and elderly maternal grandparents at their isolated farmhouse in Cavendish, Prince Edward Island.

Young Maud was a lonely child, perceptive, creative, and a little out of her element living with her Presbyterian grandparents. She lost herself in books and loved to read Dickens, Scott, Byron, and Longfellow. She wrote stories and poems in her leisure from a very early age. Maud loved to spend time with her cousins and school chums.

In 1890, after her father remarried, he invited her father to live with him and his new family in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, where she experience life in the Canadian prairies.

But things weren’t easy and she had difficulty getting along with her stepmother who expected her to work as an unpaid maid and nanny and was often prevented from attending school. Her busy father turned a blind eye to the domestic problems.

During these difficult years, Maud found solace in many new friendships. In November of 1890, one of her poems was published in the Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Daily Patriot.

Lucy returned to Prince Edward Island in August 1891 where she prepared for a teaching career by attending the Prince of Wales College. After graduation, she taught in rural schools for three years. Unfortunately she found the work challenging and not as satisfying as she thought it would be. While she taught, she managed to write for several hours each day.  By the mid-1890s she had several more stories and poems published for money.

Smart, sassy, ambitious, and wilful, Maud was every bit a girl of her times. She loved beautiful clothes and was proud of her feminine figure. Like any pretty girl of a young age, she enjoyed the admiration of men.

Maud believed in the sanctity of marriage and she looked forward to one day marrying and having children of her own. She wanted an educated husband with a romantic nature.

In 1897 she fell in love and was betrothed to a handsome young man, but she soon became disillusioned with him. During this engagement, she became involved with another young man, less suitable, but whom she believed she loved, even though she knew she could never marry him. As a result, several months later, she found herself single again and a little disillusioned with love.

When her grandfather died in 1898, she went to live and care for her aging grandmother in Cavendish. During the next 13 years, although her life there was restricted, she wrote more stories and poems which provided her with a comfortable income.

In 1907 Maud's previously rejected first novel was accepted by a publisher. Anne of Green Gables, the appealing story of an imaginative, irrepressible, red-headed orphan girl who was adopted by two elderly Prince Edward Islanders was published by the L.C. Page Company of Boston in 1908. Eight more Anne books followed.

After her grandmother died in March 1911, she married Ewan MacDonald, an attractive, amiable, conscientious Presbyterian minister to whom she had been secretly engaged for five years. The lovers honeymooned in the British Isles then returned to Canada.

Maud struggled with her new role as a minister's wife which involved endless rounds of meetings, sewing bees, Sunday school classes, choir practice, and visits. But she performed these duties with herself temperamentally unsuited to them, Maud, with her keen sense of duty, performed them without complaint.

In 1912 she gave birth to her first son, Chester and in 1915, a second son named Stuart. Throughout the early years of motherhood, she continued to write even though she felt strained and exhausted.

World War I was a source of great concern to Maud. Afterwards, she endured even more hardships. In January 1919 her cousin and closest friend, Frederica Campbell, died. Later tha same year her husband suffered an attack of what was termed "religious melancholia," a depression and feeling of hopelessness and certainty of eternal damnation. Worried that her children might inherit a smiliar mental illness, she sought medical help in Toronto and in Boston, but with little success.

Soon Ewan recovered, but he continued to suffer attacks of depression at irregular and random intervals for the rest of his life. Maud fretted continually over his health and experienced a great deal of anxiety. It didn’t help matters that she soon became engaged in a series of bitter, expensive, and difficult lawsuits with her publisher L.C. Page. The lawsuits dragged on until 1929 when Maud finally won.

In 1926 the family moved to Norval, Ontario, where Ewan became the minister of a smaller and friendlier congregation. Maud created a new, highly autobiographical heroine, Emily of New Moon. These books proved to almost as popular as her Anne books.

Maud became the first Canadian woman to be named a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts in England. In August 1927 she was invited to meet the visiting Prince of Wales (the future Edward VIII) and the British prime minister, Stanley Baldwin.

By the 1930s Maud wrote several new books. She was invested with the Order of the British Empire in 1935. A year later, the Canadian government created a national park on Prince Edward Island in and around Cavendish because of the fame of her books and the interest that had drawn to the area.

Her husband’s health began to fail. In 1935, he suffered a complete breakdown and was institutionalized. Although he slowly got better, overwhelmed by stress, Maud broke down too.

In 1935 Ewan retired, and they moved to Toronto, where their sons attended college.

Both Maud and her husband suffered further breakdowns in 1937, from which they both recovered. In the spring of 1939 Maud wrote that she felt better than she had in years.

This feeling of well-being was not to last, however. At the outbreak of World War II she fell into another depression. Her husband’s declined, and, after a bad fall in 1940, Maud became very ill. Her condition worsened in 1941, and she died on April 24, 1942.

It was reported that she died of congestive heart failure in Toronto. But her granddaughter, Kate Macdonald Butler, revealed the truth about Maud’s depression, likely as a result of caring for her mentally ill husband for decades. It was speculated that Maud actually died of a drug overdose. The note that was found with her at her death was either a suicide note or a journal entry. The truth will never be known.

Lucy M. Montgomery's suicide note:

"This copy is unfinished and never will be. It is in a terrible state because I made it when I had begun to suffer my terrible breakdown of 1940. It must end here. If any publishers wish to publish extracts from it under the terms of my will they must stop here. The tenth volume can never be copied and must not be made public during my lifetime. Parts of it are too terrible and would hurt people. I have lost my mind by spells and I do not dare think what I may do in those spells. May God forgive me and I hope everyone else will forgive me even if they cannot understand. My position is too awful to endure and nobody realizes it. What an end to a life in which I tried always to do my best."


Friday, January 15, 2010

Typhoid Mary - Mary Mallon (1869 - 1938)

Of all the terrible fates to befall an ordinary person, mine was the worst. It ruined my life. Like millions before me, I immigrated to the United States of America to seek a better life. Instead, for 26 years, I lived on an isolated island, shunned by the world. My plight begins shortly after my arrival in New York.

I arrived in America from Ireland in 1869 at the age of 15. I was a very tall, big boned girl, sturdy of build, strong, and very healthy. I was never afraid of hard work, as long as it did not pertain to housekeeping, something I could not abide. Though I never received formal training, I excelled as a cook and found I could easily earn a living at it. Mostly, I cooked at private residences for wealthy families.

In the summer of 1906, I cooked for the family of a wealthy New York banker. They rented a large house surrounded by ample grounds in a desirable part of the village of Oyster Bay for the summer. This is where my troubles began.

Shortly after my arrival, 6 of the 11 people in that house came down with a fatal fever, including the wife/mother, two daughters, two maids, and a gardener. It started with a headache and then progressed to a loss of energy, upset bowels, a high fever, and ultimately death.

With all these deaths, and because this type of unpleasant illness was familiar to me from other places I had worked, I thought it best to resign lest I should fall ill too. So I went to work for a family who lived on Park Avenue in Manhattan.

In March of 1907 a Doctor came to see me. One of the maids showed him in and he confronted me in the kitchen. He said he was investigating the illnesses in the banker's house and that I was spreading the disease through my cooking. May the devil swallow him sideways! Having a strange man accuse you of spreading disease and killing people and then ask you to produce your blood and excrement for testing would make just about anybody angry. But I wasn't just anybody. I became so blind with rage that I picked up a large carving fork and advanced toward him. That yellow coward ran from the house, with me chasing him, but he managed to jump a fence and escaped.

I believed I would never see the doctor anymore, but that fool came to see me again. This time, he brought another doctor with him. Together, they tried to convince me that I carried typhoid and again asked for a sample of my blood, urine, and feces. They also said that because of my unsanitary habits, I was spreading the disease wherever I went.

"What unsanitary habits?" I tipped my head at the spotless kitchen around me, my fists clenched beneath my apron.

Then they really insulted me. May the convulsion strike them both! They told me that they sent an assistant to check my rooms at the boarding house where I lived and that it was a pigsty; unsanitary beyond words and covered with dog feces and urine stains. The doctors told me that his assistant said that he would not be surprised if typhoid bacteria were propagating in my filth.

How dare they violate my privacy without my permission or knowledge! I refused to comply with their wishes and refused to listen to them any further. So insulted and angered was I that I screamed at the top of my lungs, ordering them to leave while shouting expletives at them as they made a hurried departure.

I was not a carrier of typhoid for I had never been ill a day in my life. So I continued to cook for the same Park Avenue family.

But those wicked doctors would not let the matter rest. They returned on March 19, 1907. I answered the door with a long kitchen fork in my hand like a rapier. It was the doctor accompanied with a female physican. As I lunged at the woman with the fork, she stepped back, recoiled on the policeman and so confused matters that, by the time they got through the door I had disappeared.

'Disappear' is too matter-of-fact a word; I was proud to say that I completely vanished. Or so I thought. They searched the house. Eventually, they must have spotted my footprints leading from the house to a chair I had placed next to a fence to go over to the neighbor's property.

They spent five hours searching both properties, until they found "a tiny scrap of blue calico caught in the door of the areaway closet under the high outside stairway leading to the front door.

I emerged from the closet fighting and swearing, both of which I could do with sage brawn. They tried to talk to me sensibly and asked me to let them have the specimens, but it was of no use. The law was wantonly persecuting me and I had done nothing wrong. I never had typhoid fever; I was maniacal in my insistence. I bit two of the officers before they managed to handcuff me and drag me to a waiting ambulance.

They took me to a detention center at the Willard Parker Hospital located at the foot of 16th Street on the East River. One of the doctors in the ambulance had to sit on me all the way to the hospital because I continued to strike out in my blind rage. Once there, they forced those humiliating tests upon me and then declared me positive for typhoid. What a bunch of malarkey! May the snail devour their corpses.

Afterwards, they moved me to North Brother Island, located in the East River between Riker's Island and the rocky shores of the south Bronx where they put people with tuberculosis or other infections and they didn't know what to do with them. They put me in a small bungalow on the grounds of the hospital where I cooked for myself and had lots of privacy.

Still, they brought me here by force and against my will and held without a trial. I had broken no laws. So how could the government lock me up in isolation indefinitely? That's not an easy question to answer. The health officials based their power on sections 1169 and 1170 of the Greater New York Charter: 'The board of health shall use all reasonable means for ascertaining the existence and cause of disease or peril to life or health, and for averting the same, throughout the city." [Section 1169] and said board may remove or cause to be removed to [a] proper place to be by it designated, any person sick with any contagious, pestilential or infectious disease; shall have exclusive charge and control of the hospitals for the treatment of such cases."

The world dubbed me "Typhoid Mary".
For 3 years I lived like a prisoner on that island. I battled nervousness, depression, and grief. My eyes twitched all the time. My left eyelid became paralyzed shut.

Some believed my imprisonment defied the law. Others, especially those in the medical profession, supported my confinement.

In 1909, I sued the city of New York demanding my immediate release because of the violation of my constitutional rights. The New York City Health Department argued that I carried the typhoid and posed a danger to the public. One doctor even called me the most dangerous person in New York! Imagine that!

I adamantly proclaimed my innocence. How could I carry the typhoid when I had worked in many places where there had been no typhoid? Even at North Brother Island, I cooked for the doctors and nurses there and they didn't get sick. I even argued that I played with the sick children in the wards there with no adverse effects. Why should I be banished like a leper and compelled to live in solitary confinement with only a dog for a companion?

My lawyer argued that during my confinement, health officials analyzed my stool samples every week. 120 of 163 samples tested positive. For nearly a year preceding the trial, I sent samples of my stool to a private lab. All my samples tested negative for typhoid. To contend that I am a perpetual menace in the spread of typhoid germs is untrue. My own doctors admit I have no typhoid. I am innocent, yet they treat me like an outcast -- a criminal. How unjust, outrageous, uncivilized.

The health officials argued that not all people suffer a strong bout of typhoid fever; some people experience a weak case with flu-like symptoms. Thus, I could have had typhoid fever but never known it. People infected by the typhoid bacillus could pass the disease from their infected stool onto food via unwashed hands. For this reason, infected persons who were cooks (like me) or food handlers had the most likelihood of spreading the disease.

I lost. The courts determined they had a duty to protect the community against the disease and ordered me to back to that island. The decision devastated me. The court did proclaim, however, that if cured, they would release me.

For a time, I accepted the fallow reality of life on North Brother Island, watching from a distance the bright lights of New York beckoning, unattainable. How could I, who had committed no crime, have my freedom snatched away so easily?

By 1910, popular opinion swayed and the public wanted to see me freed. The health commission and the courts decided that I had been locked away long enough to learn what to do to prevent the spread of the disease and that as long as I took care, there was little risk of causing harm to others. Even the doctor was aware that to hold me any longer was a violation of the Constitution of the United States.

Still, I refused to believe I carried the disease. After all, I had never had typhoid. Finally, public pressure became too much and the Health Department offered me a compromise. If I promised not to prepare food for others and never to work as a cook again, maintain good habits of personal hygiene, and report to the authorities for regular testing, they would allow me to leave my island prison and return to a normal life.

Of course, I readily agreed to their stipulations and on February 20, 1910, they released me. I traveled by ferry to the Bronx where I walked off the boat a free woman, or so I thought at first. With no money, no friends, and no hope to ever cook for anyone again, my future looked bleak.

In December of 1911, I filed a lawsuit against New York City and its Health Department, demanding $50,000 in damages. The lawsuit failed. For a while, I found work washing clothes, but I hated it. So I quit. I reported to the Health Department a few times and then never came back. By 1915, everyone forgot about "Typhoid Mary" except for a few instances when newspapers reported on the subject of typhoid fever. How I hated that moniker! After all being publicly humiliated, tagged with a horrible nickname, imprisoned, tested, depicted in photos and illustrations, gossiped about, and teased, I now I lived in poverty.

I remained illusive and no one found me, but no matter how hard I tried, I could not find work to support myself. Ultimately, I reached a point where I could either starve or rely on the only skill I possessed - cooking. So using the false name of Mrs. Brown, I took a job as a cook at the Sloane Hospital for Women on W. 59th Street.

Misfortune soon followed. In February 1915, an epidemic of typhoid erupted there. 25 nurses and attendants in the hospital became violently ill and unable to work. Because Sloane was a maternity hospital, the threat of typhoid fever caused investigators to swoop down upon the facility and begin testing the water supply which they found to be safe.

I kept my mouth shut the entire time, saying little, calling as little attention to myself as possible. But when the focus of the investigators turned to the kitchen, I grew fearful, convinced they would discover me. Some people joked about the possibility of "Typhoid Mary" working in the hospital kitchen. Only I knew how close to the truth that was.

As hard as I tried, I failed to evade them, so I submitted to the test with the other employees. Right after, I fled to my house in Corona Queens and began packing up my things.

Early the next morning, before I left, the police arrived. They knocked on the door for several minutes. I did not answer. They climbed up to the second floor window and entered. Because the home was virtually empty, I thought they would leave, but instead they continued to search the house. I ran from room to room, keeping a step ahead of them. At last they pushed open the bathroom door and there they found me. With little else to do, I admitted to being Mary Mallon. This time, I surrendered without a struggle. They took me back to Manhattan in handcuffs while officials decided what to do next.

In the meantime, the extent of the typhoid outbreak became public. One nurse and a 65 year old chambermaid at the hospital died. Everyone believed I intentionally infected innocent people by my callous and reckless behavior.

What were they going to do with me this time, I wondered? When the world learned that Typhoid Mary had struck again, an immediate uproar ensued. Once again, doctors explained that I carried typhoid, and that because of my unsanitary habits, I was spreading the disease wherever I went. They also wanted to subject me to further testing. Again, I refused to believe them and I would not submit to an examination.

The public feared infectious diseases because no one understood epidemics very well. Officials felt a great deal of pressure to do something about "Typhoid Mary." They said that I ignored warnings, refused to cooperate with health authorities, and intentionally spread typhoid among the general population. They dubbed me the most celebrated germ-carrier in the world. Some people wanted me charged with murder for the two deaths at Sloane Hospital while others wanted me locked up for good.

The doctor made matters worse. He told the public that I spread typhoid daily with the food I prepared for patients, employees, doctors, and nurses of the hospital, and that out of a total of 281 persons, typhoid attacked 25 of them before they could stop the epidemic. Newspaper editorials lobbied against me. No sympathy remained from when they first incarcerated me in 1909. They said that they had trusted me once before and I deliberately squandered it.

This time, I had little recourse through the law. A statute declared that the Health Board required the isolation of all persons and things exposed to such diseases and that the danger to the public health is sufficient ground for the exercise of police power in the restraint of liberty of such persons.

By order of the health department, they took me back to North Brother Island and placed me in isolation. I remained defiant and saw myself as a victim of bureaucrats who would stop at nothing to imprison me. As there is a God in heaven, I vowed to seek justice, somehow, sometime.

All sympathy by the public had now disappeared after my recapture. This time, I knew of my healthy carrier status - even if I didn't believe it; thus I willingly and knowingly caused pain and death to my victims, and because I used a pseudonym, it made even more people feel that I knew I was guilty.

I settled into my fate. Though they kept me isolated, I eventually came into contact daily with nurses and doctors from Riverside Hospital. After a few years, they let me work as a lab assistant at the hospital, but they monitored me constantly. I knew virtually nothing about lab work or the health profession, so I prepared paperwork for the physicians and performed office maintenance. My legal status remained unclear. Though I tried to bring my case into a court of law, it never transpired. A few more years of this kind of life and I feared I would become insane. I had committed no crime, but was doomed to be a prisoner for life!

I lived there for the next 23 years. I worked in the hospital as a domestic worker and toward the end of my life, I worked in a bacteriology lab on the grounds, washing bottles. I also had a cottage industry making and selling goods to hospital employees - baking cakes. To my detriment, I never understood typhoid fever. I never believed I carried the disease because I never became ill with it. I could not accept the fact that some people could contract a mild case of typhoid, which resembled the flu, yet continued to spread the disease even after a complete recovery.

The history books attributed at least three deaths and possibly hundreds of cases of typhoid to me. Some even had the gall to blame the start of the famous Ithaca epidemic of 1903 on me though they could never prove it.

In December 1932, I suffered a severe stroke, which left me partially paralyzed. When they found me, I was lying on the floor of my cluttered, grimy cottage. I recovered enough to continue to work in Riverside Hospital for the next six years. I seldom had visitors, and those that came were careful not to stay past dinnertime. My personal hygiene never improved and my slovenly appearance shocked many. My hair was always unkempt, pulled back in a tight knot, and I always wore a filthy lab coat.

I did not harm as many people as Tony Labella did, however. I only caused 47 illnesses and 3 deaths. Labella caused 122 illnesses and 5 deaths. They isolated him for 2 weeks and then released him.

Health officials also banned Alphonse Cotils, a restaurant and bakery owner, not to prepare food for other people. When they found him back at work, they agreed to let him go free if he promised to conduct his business over the phone.

So why does everyone remember me as "Typhoid Mary"? Why did they isolate only me for life? Some believe that my personal identity contributed to the extreme treatment I received from health officials - namely, prejudice for being Irish and a woman, but also for being a domestic servant, not having a family, not being considered a "bread earner," having a temper, and not believing in my carrier status.

During my life, I suffered an extreme punishment for something in which I had no control and, for whatever reason, I have gone down in history as the evasive and malicious "Typhoid Mary."

In 1938, I died as result of the effects of the earlier stroke. Only 9 people attended my funeral mass in St. Luke's Church in the Bronx. They buried me at St. Raymond's Cemetery.

Mary Mallon

My tombstone reads Mary Mallon Died Nov 11 1938 and, on the bottom of the stone, the words Jesus Mercy appear. But I will always be known as "Typhoid Mary".


Saturday, January 9, 2010

Adelina Patti (1843 - 1919)

Adelina Patti
1843 - 1919
Opera Singer

When it comes to opera, Adelina Patti (February 10, 1843 – September 27, 1919) was one of the most highly regarded female singers of the 19th century.  She earned exorbitant fees at the height of her career.

She is considered one of the most famous sopranos in history due to the beauty of her lyric voice and the unsurpassed quality of her bel canto technique. Giuseppe Verdi, wold famous composer, called her the greatest vocalist that he ever heard.

Adelina was the youngest child of tenor Salvatore Patti (1800–1869) and soprano Caterina Barilli (died 1870).  Her Italian parents were both working in Madrid, Spain, at the time.  Her elder sisters, Amalia and Carlotta Patti were also singers. 

Adelina and her family moved to New York City when she was a young child.  She grew up in the Wakefield section of the Bronx.  To this day, her family's home still stands. 

Age 15

Her professional singing career began in childhood where she developed into a coloratura soprano.  It is believed that Patti learned much of her singing technique from her brother-in-law Maurice Strakosch, although later in life Patti, like many famous singers, claimed that she was entirely self-taught.

In 1861, at the age of eighteen, she was invited to Covent Garden, to take the soprano rôle of Amina in Bellini's La sonnambula.  Her performance was a resounding success.  With the proceeds, she purchased a house in Clapham where she travelled to perform in Paris and Vienna.

In 1862 she sang John Howard Payne's Home, Sweet Home at the White House for Abraham and Mary Lincoln, who were mourning for their son Willie, who had died of typhoid.  The Lincolns were moved to tears and requested an encore.  This song would forever became associated with Adelina Patti.  She performed it many times as an encore by popular request.

Patti sang in the United States, all over Europe, including Russia; and in South America, inspiring popular frenzy and critical raves wherever she went.  Her girlish good looks made her an appealing stage presence. In her prime, she reportedly had a beautiful soprano voice of birdlike purity.

Patti helped give fame to the title "Diva".  In her prime, Patti demanded to be paid $5000 a night, in gold, before the performance.  Her contracts stipulated that her name be top-billed and larger than any other name in the cast.  Her contracts also said that while she was "free to attend all rehearsals, she was not obligated to attend any."  She was known to have a stubborn personality and sharp business sense.  She reportedly had a parrot whom she had trained to shriek, "CASH! CASH!"

Patti's last tour to the United States in 1903 was a critical and personal failure.  From then on she restricted herself to the occasional concert here or there, or to private performances at the little theater she built in her home at Craig-y-Nos in Wales.

By her 60s, with her voice was well past its prime.  Many decades of busy use had weakened her breath control.  Nonetheless, the purity of her tone and the smoothness of her legato line remain uniquely impressive.  The records also display a lively singing personality as well as a surprisingly strong chest voice and a mellow timbre.  Her trill is wonderful and her diction excellent.  Overall her discs have a charm and musicality that give us a hint of why, at her peak, she commanded $5000 a night.

Patti's piano accompanist Landon Ronald wrote: "When the little trumpet gave forth the beautiful tones, she went into ecstasies! She threw kisses into the trumpet and kept on saying, ‘Ah! Goodness me! Now I understand why I am Patti! Oh yes!  What a voice!  What an artist!  I understand everything! Her enthusiasm was so naïve and genuine that the fact that she was praising her own voice seemed to us all to be right and proper."

Patti's personal life was not as successful as her professional life. It was widely believed she had a dalliance with the tenor Giovanni Mario, who bragged at Patti's first wedding that he had made love to her many times.

Engaged as a minor to Henri de Lossy, Baron of Ville, Patti married three times: first, in 1868, to Henri de Roger de Cahusac, marquess of Caux (1826-1889).  The marriage soon collapsed; both had affairs and de Caux was granted a legal separation in 1877 and divorced in 1885.  The union was dissolved with bitterness and cost her half her fortune. There was a report in The New York Times in April 1875 that the Marquis was killed in a duel in St Petersburg whilst Adelina was fulfilling a professional engagement!

She lived with the tenor Ernesto Nicolini (1834-1898) for many years until, following her divorce from Caux, she was able to marry him in 1886. That marriage lasted until his death and was seemingly happy, but Nicolini cut Patti out of his will, suggesting some tension in the last years.

Patti's third and last marriage was to Baron Rolf Cederström (1870–1947), a priggish, but handsome, Swedish aristocrat many years her junior.  He severely curtailed Patti's social life.  He cut down her domestic staff from 40 to 18, but gave her the devotion and flattery that she needed.  He became Patti's sole legatee. After her death, he married a woman much younger than he. Their only daughter, Brita Yvonne Cederström (born 1924), became Adelina Patti's sole heir.

In her retirement, Adelina Patti, Baroness Cederström, settled in the Swansea valley in south Wales, where she purchased Craig-y-Nos Castle. There she had her own private theatre, a minature version of the one at Bayreuth.  She made some of her recordings at Craig-y-Nos.

She died at Craig-y-Nos and eight months later was buried near her father at the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris.

Article Source: Wikipedia

Friday, January 8, 2010

Jeanne Baret (1740 - 1803)

Jeanne Baret
1740 - 1803

World Traveler

They say that the life of a sailor is for men only. They say that a woman aboard ship brings bad luck. Well, I disproved all that.

I was born into a life of poverty and was desperate to escape hardship, starvation, and a forced life of prostitution.

Instead, hungry for adventure, I dressed myself as a man and changed my name to Jean Baré.  I worked as a valet for a gentleman in Paris. 

I learned about two ships that were leaving for the South Pacific from Nantes. While the ships were being provisioned, I enlisted as a valet and assistant to the expedition's naturalist and boarded the ships La Boudeuse and Étoile under the command of Louis Antoine de Bougainville 1766. The excursion was to last three years.

The French Frigate La Boudeuse

I became an expert botanist who cheerfully accompanied the botanist on some of the most dangerous, troublesome excursions over rugged terrain through jungles, forests, and swamps. Soon, my reputation of courage and strength became recognized by all.

Incredibly, my true gender remained undetected by the entire company of the expedition until we arrived in Tahiti.  As soon as we landed ashore to botanize, I was immediately surrounded by Tahitians who cried out that I was a woman. One chieftan in particular, developed an attraction for me and attempted to bed me.

After this discovery, I was confined to the ship. In a confrontation with the captain, I revealed to him the truth - that I was 26 years old, an orphan, and had been born in Burgundy. I had been forced to disguise my gender after the loss of a lawsuit had left me in financial distress.  Dressed as a man, I had previously served as a valet to a gentleman in Paris. When I learned of the expedition, it raised my curiosity.

Knowing it would be difficult to protect me from the sailors, the captain became my gallant. He promised to look after me and helped me seek a pardon from France.

It was the captain who credited me with being the first woman to have completed such a voyage in the history of the world.


Thursday, January 7, 2010

King Abdullah's Tomb

King Abdullah’s Tomb, by Linda and Gary Cargill, is an adventurous, plot-driven novel that starts on the ill-fated 1915 voyage of the RMS Lusitania. The protagonist of the story is one Dora Benley, a sharply intelligent girl with an inquisitive mind and an observant nature. Dora and her parents are traveling on the British ocean liner, whose departure is plagued by a series of threats from the Germans. The young girl spies a mysterious man rummaging through other people’s luggage and connects him to a series of suspicious events onboard, the least of which is an attack on her cabin itself. Unfortunately for her, curiosity does not come without a price. The stranger is convinced that Dora is hiding an object of great value, one he will not hesitate to kill over. With the help of a few friends, Dora escapes from his clutches, only to find that the Lusitania has been torpedoed by the Germans. But that’s only where the story begins.

As Dora tries to adjust to a new life after surviving her harrowing ordeal, she finds herself only drawn deeper into intrigue. The mysterious stranger has followed her to Britain and then on to America. While she tries to outwit the stranger, all the while waiting got her new fiancé to return from war, she realizes that her soon-to-be family is connected to the object the stranger is after.

This novel follows the quest for the enigmatic object, taking the reader from America to Britain onto Persia, and back. Although the pace of the story was, at times, slow and the plot structure chaotic, the authors bring forth the atmosphere of WWI vividly and with great detail. The Cargills use an epistolary approach to tell a story within a story, a clever device for giving us crucial information that helps connect characters and their adventures from across the world together, and bring the mystery to a satisfying conclusion. Readers will appreciate the historical research as well as a story that stays with you right until the twist at the end.

Love Letter - Catherine of Aragon to Henry VIII

Catherine of Aragon (1485 - 1536) had the dubious honor of being the first of eight wives to Henry VIII. 

She bore one child - a daughter, Mary, who became Queen of England.

But in his desire to bear an heir, King Henry divorced her in 1533. 

Throughout the divorce and for a long time afterward, Catherine remained steadfastly devoted to Henry until her death in 1536, as this letter clearly demonstrates.


My Lord and Dear Husband,

I commend me unto you. The hour of my death draweth fast on, and my case being such, the tender love I owe you forceth me, with a few words, to put you in remembrance of the health and safeguard of your soul, which you ought to prefer before all worldly matters, and before the care and tendering of your own body, for the which you have cast me into many miseries and yourself into many cares.

For my part I do pardon you all, yea, I do wish and devoutly pray God that He will also pardon you.

For the rest I commend unto you Mary, our daughter, beseeching you to be a good father unto her, as I heretofore desired. I entreat you also, on behalf of my maids, to give them marriage-portions, which is not much, they being but three. For all my other servants, I solicit a year's pay more than their due, lest they should be unprovided for.

Lastly, do I vow, that mine eyes desire you above all things.


Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Fannie Farmer (1857 - 1915)

Fannie Farmer
1857 - 1915


I was born in Medford, Massachusetts, USA, to Mary Watson Merritt and John Franklin Farmer, an editor and printer. Although I was the oldest of four daughters, born in a family that highly valued education and that expected me to go to college, I suffered a paralytic stroke at the age of 16 while attending Medford High School.

I could not continue my formal academic education; for several years, I was unable to walk and remained in my parents' care at home. During this time, I took up cooking, eventually turning my mother's home into a boarding house that developed a reputation for the quality of the meals it served.

By the age of 30, Farmer, I could walk again, but not wthout a substantial limp that never left me. I enrolled in the Boston Cooking School and trained there 1889 during the height of the domestic science movement, learning what were then considered the most critical elements of the science, including nutrition and diet for the well, convalescent cookery, techniques of cleaning and sanitation, chemical analysis of food, techniques of cooking and baking, and household management. I was considered one of the school's top students. I was then kept on as assistant to the director. In 1891, I took the position of school principal.

In 1896, I published my most well-known work, The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book. It introduced the concept of using standardized measuring spoons and cups, as well as level measurement. A follow-up to an earlier version called Mrs. Lincoln's Boston Cook Book, published by Mary J. Lincoln in 1884, the book under my direction eventually contained 1,849 recipes, from milk toast to Zigaras à la Russe. I also included essays on housekeeping, cleaning, canning and drying fruits and vegetables, and nutritional information.

The book's publisher (Little, Brown & Company) did not predict good sales and limited the first edition to 3,000 copies, published at my own expense. The book was so popular in America, so thorough, and so comprehensive that cooks would refer to later editions simply as the "Fannie Farmer cookbook" and it is still available in print over 100 years later.

I left the Boston Cooking School in 1902 and created Mrs. Farmer's School of Cookery. I began by teaching gentlewomen and housewives the rudiments of plain and fancy cooking, but my interests eventually led me to develop a complete work of diet and nutrition for the ill, titled Food and Cookery for the Sick and Convalescent. I was invited to lecture at Harvard Medical School and began teaching convalescent diet and nutrition to doctors and nurses. I felt so strongly about the significance of proper food for the sick that I believed I would be remembered chiefly by my work in that field, as opposed to my work in household and fancy cookery. I understood, perhaps better than anyone else at the time, the value of appearance, taste, and presentation of sickroom food to ill and wasted people with poor appetites. I ranked these qualities over cost and nutritional value in importance. No one realizes that I actually invented the brownie accidentally.

During the last seven years of my life, I was confined to a wheelchair. Despite my immobility, I continued to lecture, write, and invent recipes, giving my last lecture 10 days before my death. My lectures were republished by the Boston Evening Transcipt and were picked up by newspapers nationwide. I also lectured to nurses and dieticians and taught a course on dietary preparating at Harvard Medical School. To many chefs and good home cooks in America, my name remains synonymous today with precision, organization, and good food.

I lived until 1915, aged 57, and was interred in Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts.