Book Review: The Tattooed Lady by Amelia Klem Osterud

<a href="

uthor.jpg”>Author Amelia Klem Osterud

Author Amelia Klem Osterud

Review by Janice Formichella

Prior to contemporary notions of feminism and economic independence countless brave women paved the way for our generation by taking risks, challenging the status quo, and daring to be nontraditional. Among the more fascinating are the “Tattooed Ladies” that travelled the globe with circuses and performed as exotic “oddities” in dime museums in the early 20th Century.

The Tattooed Lady, written by librarian Amelia Osterud provides a first-time look into the history of the many tattooed lady performers. The book includes a comprehensive look at the history of the tattooed lady as an act itself, background into the history of tattooing, and individual histories of many successful tattooed ladies.

One fascinating thing I learned is that several tattooed ladies worked side by side male partners. Two of the earliest and most well-known tattooed ladies actually married men who took their last names. Remarkably enough, the earliest tattooed lady on record, Irene Woodward, who arrived on the scene in 1882, was one of these women. Each woman had achieved more fame than her husband the couple saw it as more beneficial to use the name of the wife. This shows a lot of willingness to be unconventional, both for the tattooed ladies themselves and their husbands.

While it would be unfair to judge the Fruit machines tattooed ladies according to a contemporary feminist lens, Osterud believes that tattooed ladies were definitely early feminists: “That tattooed ladies found a way to chose a better paying, downloaf free games more rewarding career makes them feminists, even if they would not have considered Up for a science challenge? Check out our con drivers ed book online video competition winners earn some awesome prizes!Get challenge updates sent right to your inbox!Learn more about how to make a winning video entry. mobile Ben 10 games free download for girls themselves such.” Without a doubt these women were exercising a level of control over their own bodies that few women in the early 1900s were willing to exercise, and they used the dynamic to financially support themselves and their families.

While the tattooed ladies had the self-determination to seek lucrative employment, the decision to tattoo had little to do with self-expression. It was truly a online casino means of making a good living, and all tattooed ladies featured in the book were tattooed to be able to cover all tattoos while not performing.

The first tattooed ladies appeared in the later part of the 19th Century. The act’s popularity reached its peak at the beginning of the 20th century, however the last tattooed lady, Lorett Fulkerson, actually worked until 1995.

The decline in popularity of the tattooed lady coincided directly with the growing popularity of tattoos as a form of self-expression. This trend resulted in a loss of mystique for the tattooed lady performers and the act became less and less profitable.

While tattoos themselves are no longer seen as a marketable act, many female performers still favor tattoos. Osterud highlights several such women at the end of her book. One performer is Peekaboo Pointe, a burlesque dancer here in New York City. I have never been to a burlesque show or understood their popularity among my feminist friends, but after reading The Tattooed Lady and learning more about its culture I think I may just attend one of Peekaboo Pointe’s shows!

The Tattooed Lady provides a thorough history of both tattooed ladies and tattoos in general, yet is so full of fabulous photographs that it can be used as a coffee table book. The selection of photographs in the book is so phenomenal that I had to look through the entire book before starting to read it.

The Tattooed Lady makes an excellent gift for anyone with tattoos, anyone interested in American history, and any women’s history enthusiast. It is a fun and unique book and will keep anyone who picks it up turning pages.

Amelia Osterud currently lectures about tattooing and may come to NYC next year for an event. Heres to hoping!


  1. Randy Pena says:

    Just wanted to say HI. I found your blog a few days ago on Technorati and have been reading it over the past few days.

  2. body tattoos says:

    I would love to read more. Thx.

  3. Pit Silas says:

    I was studying something else about this on another blog. Interesting. Your linear perspective on it is diametrically contradicted to what I read in the first place. I am still mulling over the different points of view, but I’m tipped to a great extent toward yours. And irrespective, that’s what is so good about advanced democracy and the marketplace of ideas online.

  4. […] Check out Paradigm Shift’s Janice Formichella’s review of the book here! […]

Email Newsletters with Constant Contact