Main Conent


Concepts of beauty and comeliness can influence how people are valued and treated.

man sepia photograph disability history america

The way people judged a person’s appearance was different when physical injury, crooked teeth and cavities, smallpox marks, and other scarring commonly affected people. People with such bodies were fairly normal.  Then in the mid-1800s, some cities began to ban certain people from public streets. These so-called Ugly Laws were directed at people with disabilities who sometimes depended on begging for a livelihood.

 “Any person who is diseased, maimed, mutilated, or in any way deformed so as to be an unsightly or disgusting object, or an improper person to be allowed in or on the streets, highways, thoroughfares or public places in the City of County of San Francisco, shall not therein or thereon expose himself or herself to public view.”  —San Francisco “Ugly Law,” 1867