Thu September 6, 2012
There were many stories of heroism that arose out of the Yellow Fever outbreaks of the late 19th century, but none stand-out as much as the story of Annie Cook.
Cook, whose real name is lost to history, moved to Memphis following the Civil War and took up the infamous position of Madame at the Mansion House brothel. The brothel was a well-known fixture on Gayoso Street and regarded as an upscale establishment, catering to the wealthy gentleman of the community.
In 1873 this world came to a sudden halt as a Yellow Fever epidemic took hold of Memphis. Many people fled the city for the safety of the country. Some stayed behind to help victims, including Cook. She dismissed her girls and turned the once upscale brothel into a hospital to treat the victims of the disease.
When an even more devastating Yellow Fever epidemic struck in 1878, Cook again closed the Mansion House and turned it into a hospital. Inspired by her unselfish giving, several of her employees stayed to work in that effort, too.
Cook caught the attention of local reporters, who told of her good deeds, leading to a commendation from the Christian Women of Louisville. Unfortunately, Cook contracted Yellow Fever in the 1878 outbreak and died on September 11. Her work, however, was not forgotten.
The Howard Association, a Memphis relief organization, showed their respects for Cook by having her grave moved to Elmwood Cemetery, a spot more befitting the heroin of Mansion House.