Ugly law

Between 1867 and 1974, various cities of the United States had unsightly beggar ordinances, in retrospect also dubbed ugly laws.[1] These laws targeted poor people and disabled persons. For instance, in San Francisco a law of 1867 deemed it illegal for "any person, who is diseased, maimed, mutilated or deformed in any way, so as to be an unsightly or disgusting object, to expose himself or herself to public view."[2][1] Exceptions to public exposure were acceptable only if the people were subjects of demonstration, to illustrate the separation of disabled from nondisabled and their need for reformation.[3]:47

The Charity Organization Society suggested that the best charity relief would be to investigate and counsel the people needing assistance instead of provide them with material relief.[4] This created conflict in people between their desire to be good Christians and good citizens when seeing people in need of assistance. It was suggested that the beggars imposed guilt upon people in this way.[3]:37 "Pauperism is a disease upon the community, a sore upon the body politic, and being a disease, it must be, as far as possible, removed, and the curative purpose must be behind all our thought and effort for the pauper class."[4] Similar to what Slocum said, other authors suggested that giving charity to beggars without knowing what was to be done with the funds, was as "culpable as one who fires a gun into a crowd".[5]

The term "ugly laws" was coined in the mid-1970s by detractors Marcia Pearce Burgdorf and Robert Burgdorf, Jr.[3]:9