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Tattooed Women

From Sideshow Freak to Celebrated Beauty

     

     The idea of beauty has changed drastically over the past couple of centuries; especially where women are concerned. In the olden days, women had to abide by strict rules that society imposed on them. While there are still some ‘rules’ by which we stand, they would be considered rude and downright obscene in the Victorian era.

     Alas, there was a certain type of woman who wouldn’t abide by those rules and when you get down to it, they flat out rejected them. These women were often outcasts, but not because of who they were, but because of how they looked. They were the tattooed women of the 19th century. Relegated to serve as nothing more than a ‘thing’ to stare at in disgust, these women made a pretty good living. Circuses and dime museums searched for new acts and went as far as posting wanted ads in newspapers for tattooed ladies.

     Acquiring tattoos proved to be an affordable investment with a massive payoff. During the late 1,890s to early 1,900s, tattoo artists typically charged less than a dollar for small tattoos. Performing in sideshows brought in serious cash; depending on her popularity, a tattooed lady made anywhere from $100 to $200 weekly during the turn of the century. In comparison a school teacher made an average of $7 a week (sad to see not much has changed for educators since that time).

     Still, these women were looked at as just a form of entertainment and were not revered in any kind of celebrity. Fast-forward to today, and tattooed women are everywhere. There are many tattoo conventions that celebrate tattooed women. One such event is called Lady Ink Days which is all-women artist tattoo convention. While women tattoo artists continue to be a minority in this male-dominated industry, especially in the global context, shows like these demonstrate their presence and talent within the industry. It’s been a long road for women who love getting tattooed, and there is still much to do for tattooing, but as I mentioned in my other post, Coffee & Ink, progress is being made little by little.

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