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.