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The Face That Launched a Thousand LawsuitsThe American Women Who Forged a Right to Privacy$
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Jessica Lake

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780300214222

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: May 2017

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300214222.001.0001

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“Has a Beautiful Girl the Right to Her Own Face?”

“Has a Beautiful Girl the Right to Her Own Face?”

Privacy, Propriety, and Property

(p.43) 2 “Has a Beautiful Girl the Right to Her Own Face?”
The Face That Launched a Thousand Lawsuits

Jessica Lake

Yale University Press

This chapter investigates the ways in which late nineteenth century concerns about the unauthorised publication of women’s portraits (in advertising, greeting cards and magazines) led to the legal formulation of a right to privacy in the US. It examines the history of this right within debates concerning the 1888 Bill to Protect Ladies, prior to Samuel Warren and Louis Brandeis’ seminal article, and connects claims to a right to privacy to the advent of the New Woman and women’s broader struggle for equal citizenship. It argues that despite its emphasis on ladylike “modesty” and “reserve”, the case of Roberson v Rochester Folding Box (which led to the enactment of the first privacy laws in the United States) can be read as the protest of a courageous young woman against the use of her photograph within advertising that transformed her into an anonymous “pretty” object of mass consumption. This chapter compares her objections to the masculine language of liberty and freedom espoused in Pavesich v New England Life Insurance Co. In most of the early cases, a right to privacy was employed by young women who objected to their images being handled and circulated by others.

Keywords:   Portraits, Photograph, Citizenship, Women, Privacy, Advertising, History, New Woman, Modesty, Rights

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