Tattooed women in the Victorian Age

Being tattooed may still represent a taboo in many aspects of everyone’s life, but tattooed woman underwent a stronger discrimination in time. Only in the last years something has changed, but also in the Victorian age there were some brave ladies who challenged the social convention to express their real (tattooed) being.

Tattoos have been misjudged almost in the entire human history. Only the oldest primitive communities looked at them with positivity and without bias, but apart from this the tattooing process has been linked with subjugation, mental illness, criminality.

Despite all, there actually have been moments in history in which tattoos passed through a more positive time, that is when tattoos became fashion in the higher society. One of this moments is the Victorian Age.

In the second half of the XIX century, the decoration on the body was seen as a pleasant ornament between the elites, and women used to get tattooed to be more fascinating and increase their beauty. These tattoos were typically ornamental drawings or, sometimes, the names of their husbands.

Being tattooed meant being trendy. It was a sort of pastime, a distraction, a passing fancy to have fun and become prettier. Thus tattoos soon become women’s prerogative.

This positive moment last very little, though. In fact, also circus artists began to be interested with tattoos and so the ink became to color their “out of society” skin. This is why tattoos fell in negative sight again. Anyway, it is know that tattooed women tended to be economically more independent that “normal” high society ladies who were chained to a more conventional lifestyle.

Female artists were free to travel, work, have fun, dress – or undress – like they wanted to, love who they wanted to and get inked. Tattoos continued to be a female activity with them. It was only when they spread out in the military and in the navy that they became a strongly male issue, instead.
The female tattoo fashion in the Victorian age had thus been a first basic step to pave the way to modern tattooed women. It is thanks to them, in fact, that tattooing began to be seen as a normal activity in ladies’ life.

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