Tattooed and Tenacious: Inked Women in California’s History

Exhibit Opening Spring 2021!

From upper-class women who started the tattoo craze to the working-class Tattooed Ladies who performed in circus sideshows, this exhibit puts the foremothers of modern tattooing in the spotlight. Through photographs and personal histories, this exhibit uncovers the fascinating and largely unknown stories of women and tattoos before WWII. A Show stopping mannequin, hand drawn by current Bay Area female tattoo artists and specifically commissioned for this show, highlights how far women and tattooing have come.

Mojave Woman, circa 1880.
Tattoos have long held a place in the traditions of many Indigenous tribes in California. For many young woman, ceremonial tattoos were a rite of passage into adulthood. The Mojave woman in this photo shows a traditional chin tattoo, common amongst Native American tribes in California.
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“Tattooed and Tenacious: Inked Women in California’s History” was originated by curator Amy Cohen at the Hayward Area Historical Society in Hayward, CA, and is traveled by Exhibit Envoy.

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Photographs of Camron-Stanford House by Reenie Raschke Photography