Where did tattooing come from? According to a ship’s log from Captain Cook, while in Polynesia he interacted with “tattooed savages” (women who were tattooed). In the eighteenth century, tattoos were associated with criminals, sailors, and prostitutes. Middle and upper- class women could never be seen with tattoos. As time went on, during the nineteenth-century, tattoos became popular with the upper-class citizens in Europe.
Royals and notable society personnel were attaining tattoos. It was a new trend that women were allowed to dabble in as long as it was tasteful, and was not displayed for the public to see. Some famous women that had tattoos in Europe were Lady Randolph Churchill and Queen Victoria. Churchill had a serpent tattoo hidden under her bracelets on her wrist. While Queen Victoria’s tattoo is still a mystery to the public.
Tattoos were still seen as provocative and frowned upon for women in Europe. In America, tattooed women were viewed as “freaks”. Women who had tattoos in America were found in the circus and became part of the ‘Freak Shows’. It is crazy to fathom that during the same time period but in different parts of the world tattoos were viewed very differently. In Europe, upper-class women had tattoos and were not shamed. However, in America, these women were tortured, kidnapped, and were shamed into freak shows.
Stay tuned for next week’s blog. We will be delving into some famous inked Victorian women and learn all about their life, their struggles, and yes, their tattoos!