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

Yale Law Library Series in Legal History and Reference
Publication date:
03 Jan 2017
Yale University Press
320 pages: 210 x 140 x 27mm
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A compelling account of how women shaped the common law right to privacy during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries

Drawing on a wealth of original research, Jessica Lake documents how the advent of photography and cinema drove women—whose images were being taken and circulated without their consent—to court. There they championed the creation of new laws and laid the groundwork for America’s commitment to privacy. Vivid and engagingly written, this powerful work will draw scholars and students from a range of fields, including law, women’s history, the history of photography, and cinema and media studies.

Jessica Lake is a lecturer in law at Swinburne University of Technology in Australia and for 2016 to 2017 will be the Karl Lowenstein Fellow in Political Science and Jurisprudence at Amherst College, Massachusetts.

"Jessica Lake’s The Face That Launched a Thousand Lawsuits is one of those rare books that truly upends conventional wisdom and changes the way readers understand an important subject. In a fascinating and well written account, Lake retells the history of the right to privacy. She shows how the activism of individual women played a central role in driving the legal recognition of that right. This book persuasively argues that we owe much to women who resisted the unauthorized circulation of photographic images of them. It is bracing and compelling from the first page to the last."—Austin Sarat, William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence & Political Science, Amherst College


"What I found most compelling about Jessica Lake’s meticulously researched and eminently readable history is that she never loses sight of what patriarchal and even feminist constructions of privacy repeatedly miss: the experiences of individual women in a voyeuristic society. For all its deft analyses of legal cases, The Face That Launched a Thousand Lawsuits reads like the story of a resistance movement, one in which the rebels are women, the cause is self-determination, and the fight is by no means done."--Garret Keizer, author of Privacy and The Unwanted Sound of Everything We Want

"Cybercrimes of visuality today have a prehistory uncovered in this book, which shows how far women aggrieved at having their images circulated without their consent brought the legal cases that built the right to privacy." --Nancy F. Cott, Trumbull Professor of American History, Harvard University