The History of Tattoos and Women

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The History of Tattoos and Women

Tattoos are not a new idea in regard to being a way for people to be individuals. The thing that has changed in regards to tattoos is why people are getting them. This is especially true for women. The first tattoos were put on people to tell other people information about them, whether the information is good or bad was based on the person and society. This was especially true for women because women have always been seen as submissive in society. It is because of this that women could be made to mark their bodies, even if they didn’t want to. Because of this tattoos have been a way for women’s right activists to show their disdain for Victorian family values (the man being in charge of the women’s life). Tattoos have been a way for women to become individuals, whether they were forced to get them based on the society they lived in, or chose them based or their beliefs. Women of ancient times have had proof of tattoos. While today, tattoos are put on people by choice; at this time tattoos were used to label women. Tattoos date back to 5,200 ago; the earliest tattoos on women have been dated back to 2000 B.C., which have been found on Egyptian female mummies. In this culture it was only the women that were tattooed. Men were not tattooed, probably because men did not need to be labeled for people to know what their attributes are. (Lineberry) At first it was thought that tattoos were to mark prostitutes and differ them from other women, but excavators have found tattoos on women that were very affluent for the time. While the first tattoos were mostly of dots and lines, pictures were also added. (Lineberry) It is one thought that tattoos were used to help women through the birthing process. Dots would be draw on a woman’s stomach and upper legs, and as the woman grew the dots would turn out looking like nets. Also, tattoos were used to tell men information about the women in their culture. Egyptian culture was the oldest example of women that were tattooed. But there were other cultures that were tattooing as well. Some of these cultures include the Japanese, Chinese and Polynesian cultures, as well as the Indian Culture.

One reason the Indian culture had tattoos was because of the Hindu belief in the caste system. Hindu’s believe that once a person’s life is over they are reborn into a higher or lower caste based on if they were a good or bad person in the prior life. Many times women were tattooed to show men certain aspects of themselves. For example some of the symbols that were tattooed on women shower fertility and subordination. Another type of tattoo that is popular in the Indian culture was a dot, thought to be a third eye to ward off evil. A type of tattoo that is very important in Indian culture is henna tattoos. Henna tattoos were used on weddings days. It was a belief that the darker the henna tattoo, the more the mother in law would like her new daughter. In the Indian culture henna is used to mark all sorts of happy events. The only time women in India do not do henna tattoos is when they have been recently widowed and are in mourning. (The history of henna tattoo)

While in the beginning history of tattoos was very demeaning to women, this started to change in the beginning of the 19th century. This was a time of great women’s rights growth, and with that growth grew the popularity of the tattoo. Tattoos were a way for women to speak out against male dominated society, and also express their beliefs.

In the late 19th century women had begun getting tattoos. One reason for this was for women’s rights. Women, such as Irene Woodward started to get tattoos after she found out how much P.T. Barnum was making each week in a circus’ freak show. Women were looking for work so they could be more independent and not depend on a male for their livelihood. Many women found their husbands while they were working in the freak show and their...
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