Charlotte-Adélaïde Dard, née Picard, was born in Paris, the daughter of Charles Picard, a French infantry captain. In 1816, at age 18, she traveled with her family on the French Navy frigate La Méduse (Medusa) en route to Senegal, then a French colony. The ship was wrecked off the coast of Mauritania, but the family was able to escape and survived a brutal ordeal in an overcrowded lifeboat. They managed to reach Senegal, but her father lost his civil service position there and Charlotte was forced to help support the family by growing food and harvesting cotton. In 1820, she married Jean Dard, a teacher, and moved with him to Bligny-lès-Beaune in France. She published her autobiographical account of the events surrounding the shipwreck in 1824 as La Chaumière africaine ou Histoire d'une famille française jetée sur la côte occidentale de l'Afrique à la suite du naufrage de la frégate La Méduse. She also wrote other pieces about her experiences in Africa. The painter Théodore Géricault drew his inspiration for his famous painting The Raft of the Medusa (1818-1819) from this event.