Maud Stevens Wagner The First Female Tattoo Artist

08 Mar Happy International (Tattooed) Womens Day!

Pretty Inked Magazine is not only a tattoo and lifestyle magazine celebrating the art of tattooing. It’s about celebrating Tattoo Bettys, women who are successful, talented and tattooed, and changing the societal outlook which dictates how women see, and dress their own bodies. For some reason when it comes to the general populous there is still that negative stigma against tattooed women. Men can be walking canvases, but for some reason when it comes to women they still have to work harder to prove that ink on their skin does not dictate the role they should play in society. Even though since 2012 the gender with the highest number of tattoos, was women. International Women’s Day is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. So on this day we want to celebrate not only all the amazing achievements the previous Bettys before of us have accomplished, but the start of something truly inspiring by one women in particular.

Maud Wagner was an aerialist, an incredible contortionist, but most importantly she was the first known female tattoo artist in North America. Born in Lyon County, Kansas, in 1877 she worked for a number of traveling circuses where she met her future husband Gus Wagner – a tattoo artist self described as “the most artistically marked up man in America”. Getting covered herself, Maud was intrigued by the art form and began to apprentice with Gus in exchange for a romantic date. One thing led to another and not only did Maud and Gus end up falling in love and getting married, but Maud became an incredible talented and sought after artist in her own right. Maud learned how to give traditional “hand-poked” tattoos (despite the invention of the tattoo machine) and became, along with her husband, one of the last tattoo artists to work by hand without the aid of modern tattoo machines. With her talent in tow, she ended up leaving the circus to tattoo around the United States, and it is because of this career move she is credited with bringing tattoo artistry inland, away from the coastal cities and towns where the practice had started.

Maud Wagner was an inspiration and opened the doors for more women to not only get tattooed, but to practice the art and pave the way for the biggest female named tattoo artists in the industry today. It is thanks to her skill and dedication that more women were able to enter the industry and bring the industry to new places and new heights. There is still a ways to go to getting more women self confident showing off their inked skin and bringing more women into the tattoo industry, but we wouldn’t be where we are today without the incredible Tattoo Bettys before us. Thank you so much Maud and to all the women (and men) out there fighting for equality. We love you guys!!

“Tattoos appeal to contemporary women both as emblems of empowerment in an era of feminist gains and as badges of self-determination at a time when controversies about abortion rights, date rape, and sexual harassment have made them think hard about who controls their bodies—and why.” – Margot Mifflin, Author ‘A Secret History of Women and Tattoo’

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