For the first time in modern western history, women have surpassed men in the tattoo department. It’s estimated that today 23% of American women have tattoos, compared to 19% of men. For my generation, this isn’t really shocking news – pretty much every woman I know has at least one tattoo. And there is a long history of women being tattooed and tattoo artists over the past 150 years. Aboriginal women have tattooed themselves and others for millennia, with the tattoos symbolizing their transition to womanhood and ability to nurture and procreate; but modern mainstream society has had a disturbing tendency to see women with tattoos as less attractive and more promiscuous. In the 1800s, most of the tattooed women in the US were circus performers, who generated income for the freak shows by displaying their full body tattoos. Tattoos continued to be seen as freaky for the most part, something to be hidden, with a few exceptions – women like Betty Broadbent, Pam Nash, Cindy Ray and Mildred Hull, among others, became famous around the world for their tattoos as well as tattoo artistry, but they were by far the exception to the rule of what was appropriate for female behaviour. I love looking at vintage photos of tattooed women, because while I still feel like there are damaging stereotypes applied to women if they choose to present themselves in a way that’s deviant from the norm, despite the popularity of tattoos among women, it reminds me that these ancestors forged a path for me and my tattooed sisters through far worse circumstances. So here’s a collection of stunning queens that could put most dudes today to shame with their ink! If you are in the San Jose area and want to check out a history of women with tattoos in the US, check out the History San Jose “Tattooed and Tenacious” exhibition, showing at History Park for the rest of the year.