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Out of the Shadow of Leprosy

The Carville Letters and Stories of the Landry Family

Claire Manes

Publication Year: 2013

In 1924 when thirty-two-year-old Edmond Landry kissed his family good-bye and left for the leprosarium in Carville, Louisiana, leprosy, now referred to as Hansen's Disease, stigmatized and disfigured but did not kill. Those with leprosy were incarcerated in the federal hospital and isolated from family and community. Phones were unavailable, transportation was precarious, and fear was rampant. Edmond entered the hospital (as did his four other siblings), but he did not surrender to his fate. He fought with his pen and his limited energy to stay connected to his family and to improve living conditions for himself and other patients.

Claire Manes, Edmond's granddaughter, lived much of her life gripped by the silence surrounding her grandfather. When his letters were discovered, she became inspired to tell his story through her scholarship and his writing. Out of the Shadow of Leprosy: The Carville Letters and Stories of the Landry Family presents her grandfather's letters and her own studies of narrative and Carville during much of the twentieth century. The book becomes a testament to Edmond's determination to maintain autonomy and dignity in the land of the living dead. Letters and stories of the other four siblings further enhance the picture of life in Carville from 1919 to 1977.

Published by: University Press of Mississippi


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pp. 1-7


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pp. vii-9

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pp. ix-xi

Hansen’s disease (HD) activist Stanley Stein wrote, “It is not what we have lost that matters most, but what we choose to do with what we have left.” Stein entered the U.S. Public Health Service Hospital in Carville as a patient in 1931. He went on to establish Carville’s international news...

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pp. xiii-xiv

This book, the culmination of many years of searching for my grandfather, would not have been possible without the action and support of many....

A Chronology of Edmond Landry’s Life 1891–1932

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pp. xv-xvi

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Introduction: A Family and a Disease

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pp. 5-7

My great-grandparents, Joseph Terville Landry and his wife Lucie, had five children who lived to adulthood: Edmond (my grandfather), Norbert, Marie, Albert, and Amelie. (It is believed a sixth child died in infancy.) All five of the adult children spent the last years of their lives in...

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Chapter 1. Finding Carville, Finding Family

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pp. 8-16

For slightly more than one hundred years, Carville, Louisiana, a quirky village on a bend in the Mississippi River south of Baton Rouge, was an ethnic melting pot; its hospital was the home to men, women, and children from not only the United States but from locations as diverse as Japan,...

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Chapter 2. Edmond: Anticipating a Bright Future

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pp. 17-30

At the end of January 1909, Edmond G. Landry left his home and family to begin his business studies in New Orleans. His trunk was packed and loaded in the buggy. He embraced his father, mother, and brother, Norbert, and kissed his younger siblings Marie, Albert, and Amelie. He...

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Chapter 3. Moving into the Shadow: Life at Home

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pp. 31-36

My favorite picture of my grandfather is one of him, my mother, and my grandmother taken in the spring or early summer of 1919. It is my grandfather’s best picture, and one that is indicative of the best years of his life. In the picture, he and his wife are sitting outside on the stoop in front...

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Chapter 4. In Leprosy’s Shadow: Life in Carville

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pp. 37-46

On September 11, 1924, one year and four months after Edmond had been confined to his home, incapacitated by leprosy, Dr. George Sabatier wrote to Dr. W. F. Carstens, Iberia Parish Health Officer and Edmond’s personal friend, “Patient isolated, Healthy environment, but...

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Chapter 5. Edmond’s Letters from Carville

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pp. 47-142

Letters can never adequately reveal the anguish of a life lived separated from family, but they are courageous attempts at doing just that. While they may not ever fully express the passion of the heart, they are still an immediate and direct contact with loved ones. When Edmond sat down...

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Chapter 6. Out of the Shadow: Finding Edmond

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pp. 143-144

Icannot know what life in our family would have been like had we not been touched by leprosy and its secrets. My mother herself acknowledges that her reticence and “stand-offishness” was in part due to the secrets she had carried most of her life. Perhaps all of us in the family would have...

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Chapter 7. Lives Remembered and Restored

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pp. 145-187

My grandfather’s life was always the object of my search. He was the one I wanted to know, but I knew little of him and even less of his siblings. In fact, I had little sense that Norbert and Amelie even existed until the family letters were found in 1977. They, like Edmond, had died before...

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Chapter 8. Epilogue: My Journey out of the Shadow

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pp. 188-196

In writing this book, I intended to let my grandfather’s story be told in his own words without the interruption of too much analysis or theory. However, my writing was shaped by my academic studies and that bears acknowledgment. In this chapter, I will look at my own journey and some...


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pp. 197-204

Works Cited

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pp. 205-207


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pp. 208-211

E-ISBN-13: 9781621039426
E-ISBN-10: 1621039420
Print-ISBN-13: 9781617037764

Page Count: 192
Publication Year: 2013

OCLC Number: 849913242
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Out of the Shadow of Leprosy

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Landry, Edmond, 1891-1932.
  • Landrey Family.
  • Leprosy -- Patients -- Louisiana -- Carville -- Correspondence.
  • Leprosy -- Hospitals -- Louisiana -- Carville -- History -- Sources.
  • National Hansen's Disease Programs (U.S.) -- History.
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