Reflections: The Life and Writings of a Young Blind Woman in Post-Revolutionary France

Husson, Thérèse-Adèle

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Biography

Annotated by:
Clark, Stephanie Brown
  • Date of entry: May-30-2002


Two scholars found and translated a personal narrative of a blind 22 year old, Thérèse-Adèle Husson, written in 1825 to the director of the Quinze-Vingts Hospital, an institution that provided permanent lodging and support for the blind in France. Husson hoped to be placed there. Subtitled "Reflections on the Physical and Moral Condition of the Blind," Husson writes about the gait, demeanor, table manners, touch, hearing, character, perceptions of the sun, moon, flowers, furniture and cloth, marriage considerations, and concludes with an education plan for the blind.

After "Reflections" Husson wrote 10 novels, including Story of a Pious Heiress; the editors have included this novel’s introduction, "Note on the Author’s Youth," which gives further autobiographical details. These two writings of Husson are framed by a thoughtful introduction by editors Weygard and Kudlick about the historical conditions of the blind in early 19th Century France, and an equally interesting and provocative concluding chapter about the manuscript, life, and world of Husson.


Husson’s "Reflections" may disappoint readers hoping for a sophisticated narrative that resists the restrictions and conditions of being disabled and a woman in the early 19th Century. Given that she was writing to gain the favor of the Hospital’s director, the essay has a clear agenda; her moral high-mindedness and unexamined acceptance of her blindness, and deferential descriptions of disabled behaviors, and her discussion of marriage and exhortation that blind women must NEVER marry, are all unsettling for the modern reader.

But Kulick and Wegand have cleverly framed that main narrative against the "other" Thérèse-Adèle, whose life story stands in remarkable contrast. If not in her writing, in her life Husson seems to have resisted the restrictions and conditions of being disabled and a woman. For anyone interested in the history of the blind, or in historical first personal narratives, this is a fascinating read.


Translated, with commentary by Catherine Kudlick and Zina Weygand. "Reflections" and "Life" by Husson, 44 pp; history and commentary, 110 pp.


New York Univ. Press

Place Published

New York & London




Catherine Kudlick & Zina Weygand

Page Count