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The Tattooed Lady: A History

by Amelia Klem Osterud

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552479,129 (4)1
Living in a time when it was scandalous even to show a bit of ankle, a small number of courageous women covered their bodies in tattoos and traveled the country, performing nearly nude on carnival stages. These gutsy women spun amazing stories for captivated audiences about abductions and forced tattooing at the hands of savages, but little has been shared of their real lives. Though they spawned a cultural movement--almost a quarter of Americans now have tattoos--these women have largely faded into history. The Tattooed Lady uncovers the true stories behind these women, bringing them out of the sideshow realm and into their working class realities. Combining thorough research with more than a hundred historical photos, this updated second edition explores tattoo origins, women's history, circus lore, and includes even more personal and professional details from modern tattooed ladies. A fascinating read, The Tattooed Lady pays tribute to a group of unique and amazing women whose legacy lives on.… (more)
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A really pretty book. Lots of amazing phots and a peek at life as an oddity. As a tattooed lady myself, I found it fascinating. ( )
  readingjag | Nov 29, 2021 |
Tattoos have always held intrigue for me (working in #8 this month!) and I was delighted to stumble across this gem, Academic librarian, Amelia Klem Osterud, pieces together a largely forgotten/overlooked past female tattoed performers and accompanies the text with beautiful photographs and illustrations.

Amelia does an excellent job describing the early tattooed beauties and their influence on women's rights, tattoos, and stereotypes in America's past and current culture. This collection is truly amazing and I enjoyed learning about some of the reasons why women covered themselves in ink and joined the circus and fled the "norm" female lifestyle. Many times it was for survival, being a tattooed woman allowed for a freer lifestyle and a relatively good income. Learning about the style and technique of tattooing was also quite fascinating (thankfully this has changed drastically).

The first generation of tattooed ladies (Nora Hildebrandt, Irene Woodward, Annie Howard - 1880's) and the second generation (Betty Broadbent, Lady Viola - 1920's) helped pave the way in how people see and understand tattoos and inspired women to rise above their status and lived in relative freedom compared to their female counterparts of the day. The author summed it up well, "These tattoed ladies made a literal mark on future generations of women, and that mark is a reminder that difference is beautiful." ( )
  ecataldi | May 21, 2013 |
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Living in a time when it was scandalous even to show a bit of ankle, a small number of courageous women covered their bodies in tattoos and traveled the country, performing nearly nude on carnival stages. These gutsy women spun amazing stories for captivated audiences about abductions and forced tattooing at the hands of savages, but little has been shared of their real lives. Though they spawned a cultural movement--almost a quarter of Americans now have tattoos--these women have largely faded into history. The Tattooed Lady uncovers the true stories behind these women, bringing them out of the sideshow realm and into their working class realities. Combining thorough research with more than a hundred historical photos, this updated second edition explores tattoo origins, women's history, circus lore, and includes even more personal and professional details from modern tattooed ladies. A fascinating read, The Tattooed Lady pays tribute to a group of unique and amazing women whose legacy lives on.

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