Maud Wagner, 1877-1961

  • Maud-Wagner-WWP

Woman Category: Activism & Feminism and ArtsWoman Tags: Painter

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    The first female professional Tattoo artist in the US.

    Born as Maud Stevens in Lyon County, Kansas. She was an acrobat, that throughout her youth, she worked in various traveling circuses as an aerialist and contortionist. At the age of 27 (1904), while performing at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, she met Gus Wagner – a tattoo artist who was referred to as the Tattooed Globetrotter. He was interested in her, and she was fascinated by the art of tattoos, so they agreed on a barter – a date in exchange for a tattooing lesson. She became his canvas and later a tattoo artist herself. Even though the modern machine was already widespread, they used the hand-poked method, working with a manual stick, the last tattoo artists to continue tattooing in the traditional technique.
    After a few years, they got married, and soon after, they left the circus to travel in the US, working as tattoo artists as well as tattooed attractions, performing in vaudeville houses and county fairs. With their traveling, they brought the tattoo artistry from the coastal cities to the inland, and they are credited for the growth of the art in the US, making it approachable to all, not just for sailors and circus performers.
    Her tattoos were typical for the early 20th century, including patriotic symbols, women, lions, snakes, butterflies, horses, monkeys, and trees. She even tattooed her name on her arm. At a time when women had limited rights and many social restrictions, she was one of those who broke down the barriers, not only getting tattoos but becoming the first woman in the US to be known as a tattoo artist.

    More Interesting Anecdotes:

    • She became a tattoo artist despite her parent’s objection.
    • She refused to let her daughter get any tattoos, and when her daughter Lovetta got older and became a tattoo artist as well, she was one of a few tattoo artists without ever been touched by ink.


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  • Woman Tags: Painter

    The First Female Tattoo Artist Who Made It for a Living

    Maud Wagner was born in a small county in Kansas in 1877. Her parents lived on a farm, and when she got older, she decided to leave the quiet life behind. She joined a traveling circus and started out as a contortionist. It was a twist of fate. She didn’t know it then, but this bold move would change the course of her entire life.

    What was definitely not common in the early 20th century was women with body modifications. Truth be told, even tattoos on men were still highly associated with the criminal world. Marked up girls were especially rare, and as a result, the public considered them weirdos and even freaks. Thanks to this brave lady, tattoos became something more than a strange attraction.

    Maud meets “the most artistically marked-up man in America” 0:30
    Why she agreed to go on a date with him 1:50
    What her tattoos looked like 3:19
    A teenage girl with mysterious marks on her face 4:08
    9-year-old tattoo artist 6:22
    Millie Hull who rocked the tattoo world 7:53

    #tattoo #funhistory #brightside

    - For a while, Maud toured the United States, working in various sideshows and circus acts as an aerialist at the time.
    - In 1904, she met was Gus Wagner. He was a former seaman, and a few years before, he’d found his true calling in between his journeys. During his stay in Java and Borneo, he picked up the skill of creating tattoos from the natives.
    - He had over 260 designs on his own skin. It’s no wonder that at the time, he became known as “the most artistically marked-up man in America”. 
    - Though the machine was widely used by his colleagues, Wagner preferred the good old stick and poke technique that the tribesmen taught him.
    - He asked Maud to go on a date with him. But not for nothing, because in exchange, he agreed to teach her how to make a tattoo. I guess he was a true romantic. 
    - What was definitely not common in the early 20th century was women with body modifications. Truth be told, even tattoos on men were still highly associated with the criminal world.
    - Their union may have been really unusual, but they were partners in every sense of the word. They lived and worked together and of course, they also tattooed each other.
    - Maud and Gus were the ones who brought this craft to the parts of their country where people had hardly ever seen an inked person. 
    - In 1910, their daughter Lotteva was born. She made her first tat when she was just 9 years old!
    - During the 1930s, Millie Hull was the one who rocked the tattoo world.
    - Hull also began her working life in a circus, but as a dancer. Soon she heard she could make way more money if she was tattooed. It didn’t take very long before she was covered all over.
    - In 1936, an article about her appeared in the Family Circle magazine. There she was, in all her glory, demonstrating her extraordinary talents among the celebrity news and housekeeping tips.
    - She was one of the few women who worked in this area, which, by the way, had been crucial for tattoo masters and fans for decades.

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