The History of Women And Tattoos

Published January 26, 2024
By Celebrity Ink

Tattoos, a timeless form of self-expression, have woven their way into the fabric of human history. However, tattoos haven’t always been an option for self-expression for women. So, how did we get to where we are today?

This article will spotlight the often-overlooked story of women and tattoos, uncovering their relationship with this ancient art form. From the sacred symbols of goddesses to the bold statements of suffragettes, women have used tattoos to convey strength, resilience and individuality. Join us as we explore the history of women and tattoos, how women got into the tattoo world and inspiring feminine tattoo design ideas.

Women Enter The Tattoo World

The oldest record of tattooed women dates back to ancient Egypt. Archeologists have recovered a female mummy known as Gebelein Woman that is as old as 5,000 years. In ancient Egypt, it was common for females in each social class to have tattoos; it wasn't solely restricted to the ruling upper class.

Like the Egyptians, traditional tattooing has existed in Native civilisations for hundreds of years.

In Aotearoa (New Zealand), Maori families would tattoo the eldest daughter, considered the most sacred. The designs of the tattoos were a sign of high status and attractiveness.

Fast forward a couple of thousand years and women who had tattoos were looked down upon and frequently were part of the circus, one of them being Maud Wagner, the first female tattoo artist in the United States.

Born in 1877, Maud grew up in an extremely poor household and didn’t have much. When she was a teenager, she ran away and joined the circus.

While travelling with the circus, she met Gus Wagner, a heavily tattooed man who was also a talented artist. Maud was intrigued by his tattoos and agreed to date him in exchange for tattoo lessons. After learning from Gus, Maud became the first woman in the USA to learn and master the traditional hand-poke tattoo method.

The Evolution of Women And Tattoos

While tattooing has existed for more than 12,000 years, it didn’t become popular in the Western world until the 19th century.

The first instance of tattooed women in Western society was in Freak Shows. During this time, tattooing was something that women avoided. This was especially true during the early 19th century when women had to cover their bodies as they were under the control of men. It was also during this time that female self-expression was frowned upon. However, there were women who didn’t listen to the rules and got tattoos. But those women who chose to ignore the rules were expelled from society and seen as freaks.

A couple of decades later, it was the suffragettes who began utilising tools as a way to make statements about their rebellions. The women activists saw tattoos as a source of empowerment and a tool with which to redefine patriarchal ownership of female bodies. As late as the 1960s, women across the United States needed written consent from their husbands to get a tattoo.

When the new wave of feminists emerged in the late 1960s and early 1970s, with more and more women choosing careers over marriage, they looked for new ways to destroy the patriarchy’s control over women. One very visible way was to tattoo their bodies. Due to this, women getting tattoos became a small yet powerful act of resistance.

It was also during this time that women began seeking careers in tattooing. Like with any male-dominated field, it was a gradual process, and the female tattoo artists had to fight against a lot of discrimination to get to where they are today.

These days, women view tattoos in a range of different ways. For some, tattoos appeal to ideas about empowerment and taking control of their body. For others, a tattoo is a symbol of self-expression or to mark a significant personal event.

In Australia, there are more women getting tattoos than men. According to McCrindle, 31% of women in Australia have tattoos, compared to 19% of men. The continual rise of feminism over the last 50 years can be attributed as one of the main reasons there are more and more women getting tattoos.

Feminine Empowering Tattoo Ideas

So, what are some feminine empowering tattoo ideas for your next design?

  • Famous Feminists: If you have a favourite feminist, getting a tattoo of them or something that resembles what they stood for is a fantastic tattoo design idea. For example, Frida Kahlo was a famous feminist and a popular tattoo symbol.
  • Goddesses: Many divine feminine energy tattoos feature goddesses from various cultures. One common feminine energy tattoo symbol is the Greek goddess Aphrodite.
  • Equal Sign: The equal sign has become increasingly popular in recent years. Symbolising equality between humans, the equal sign is the perfect feminine empowering tattoo.
  • Simple, Powerful Phrase: If you have a favourite feminist phrase, why not get it tattooed? Popular phrases include ‘GRL PWR’ and ‘The future is female’.
  • Moon Phases: The moon is a symbol of feminine energy, fertility and divinity. The moon phases represent the three stages of womanhood: maiden, mother and crone.
  • Butterflies: Getting a butterfly or butterflies inked to your skin is a symbol of hope, endurance and change. It can also symbolise where you’ve been and where you’re going.

Book A Consult With Celebrity Ink

From being considered a freak if a woman had tattoos to having to get their husband’s permission to get a tattoo, women have come a long way to get to where they are today.

Since ancient times, tattoos have been a way to express yourself and what you believe in.

If you’re thinking about getting a feminine energy tattoo, or any tattoo for that matter, book a consultation at your nearest Celebrity Ink studio. Our tattoo artists will sit down with your ideas for a tattoo or help you come up with a design that is unique to you. Contact us today to start your journey towards getting a new, beautiful tattoo design.

Get your next tattoo at Celebrity Ink

The team at Celebrity Ink can provide you with not only a tattoo that tells your story but also detailed aftercare information that goes beyond the question of how long does a tattoo take to heal.

Our team sets standards in tattoo design while working alongside you to bring your vision to life. Whether you’re seeking traditional tattoos, realistic designs, mandalas, or any other, we have artists specialising in a range of tattoo styles that can provide you with the tattoo you have envisioned.

Book a consultation to discuss your tattoo design, get in contact with the crew at Celebrity Ink, and we will lock you in for your next ink session.
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