Maud Wagner, the first known female tattooist in the U.S., 1911. In 1907, she traded a date with her husband-to-be for tattoo lessons. Their daughter, Lotteva Wagner, was also a tattooist.
Anna Mae Gibbons started working under the name of “Artoria, tattooed girl” in 1919 with various circus acts, including Wisconsin’s own Barnum and Bailey’s “Greatest Show on Earth” from 1920 until 1924. She worked for fifty years as a badass tattooed lady in the circus until the 1980’s.
Betty Broadbent. One of the best-known and most photographed American circus attractions, Betty Broadbent made history by appearing in the first televised beauty contest—fully tattooed—at the 1937 World’s Fair. Photograph courtesy of the New York Daily News.
Elizabeth Weinzirl, 1961. A doctor’s wife who began getting tattooed at forty-seven, she was one of the first women to collect and show her tattoos recreationally. Photograph courtesy of Mary Jane Haake.
Bobbie Libarry, 1976, photographed by Imogen Cunningham. Libarry was an attraction turned tattooist in San Francisco. The ninety-three-year-old Cunningham, who photographed the eighty-three-year-old Libarry in a hospital, thought this was one of her best portraits. It was also one of her last, taken just months before she died.