I read the question Is it harmful to your eyes to read in dim light? and remembered that when I visited Kensington Palace a few years back there was a story that many of the servant girls who worked as seamstresses went blind - by age 22 or younger, if I remember correctly. The reason given was that they worked long hours doing detailed sewing by candlelight. Here is the closest (slightly indirect) online reference to the claim I could find:

they didn’t want to know how many seamstresses had lost their eyesight embroidering our magnificent court dresses

Furthermore, a similar question was recently posed which seemed to support the argument that sewing in dim light harms one's eyes, and by following links in the answer I arrived at the paper entitled The linkage between Iranian patriarchy and the informal economy in maintaining women's subordinate roles in home-based carpet production where it says:

There is usually inadequate light in most rural homes, and the weavers’ houses are damp, dark, and cramped. The average working life cycle of a highly skilled weaver is estimated at 13 years since the weavers lose their eyesight, in part, due to improper lighting. Some weavers who start very young suffer from different types of physical ailments exacerbated by the nature of their work. An older weaver in Najaf-Abad said, “I am losing my eyesight, see I have been weaving for many years.”

However, as noted by the BMJ in a previous question:

Suboptimal lighting can create a sensation of having difficulty in focusing. It also decreases the rate of blinking and leads to discomfort from drying, particularly in conditions of voluntary squinting. The important counterpoint is that these effects do not persist.

Therefore, I shall assume that the BMJ references the act of occasionally reading a book by torchlight under the bed-covers, whereas British stately homes had, and Iranian carpet-makers have people working day-in day-out in ill-lit spaces therefore providing little opportunity to rest one's eyes. Thus my question becomes "Does long-term detailed work in low light permanently damage one's eyesight?", an issue not addressed by the BMJ.

  • I've heard that the bright red colours in military uniforms were especially bad for seamstresses.
    – Golden Cuy
    Aug 25, 2014 at 4:28
  • Do you expect there to be a significant difference between the effects of reading in dim light and embroidering in dim light, except from the different output?
    – P_S
    Aug 25, 2014 at 6:59
  • The other answer is not specific to reading, closing as dupe. If there is anything unsatisfactory about the other answer, let's address it there.
    – Sklivvz
    Aug 25, 2014 at 7:28
  • I thought there might be an alternative explanation for this case such as poor nutrition rather than nagging parents. The BMJ article does seem quite categorical, though, and whether Kensington Palace is making up their particular version of the story and/or their motivation for doing so is outside this group's scope, I suppose.
    – Ken Y-N
    Aug 25, 2014 at 7:52


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