Janet ‘Rusty’ Skuse—once Britain’s most tattooed lady.
Let’s try and imagine just how shocking it once must have been to have seen a young lady decorated in tattoos out shopping on the high street. It must have been quite something. These days, it’s almost de rigueur for young ladies to sport tatts. This morning, for instance, while taking the train to work, on came three young girls who barely looked old enough to be out of junior high let alone inked with a set of rather splendid tattoos. One had an eagle on her shoulder. Another had a snake curled from ankle to thigh, while the third flexed a bloody heart on her bicep. To be honest, it all seemed quite ordinary and utterly mundane. The last time I was ever surprised by a tattoo was when a friend (hi Bert) had a massive, thick, heavily veined penis tattooed on his thigh right down to his knee, no less. It was certainly a talking point when he wore shorts—but that was obviously the idea.
Tattooing has been around longer than we care to think—way back to the Stone Age apparently—and its ubiquity today tells us there is nothing outsider-ish, or edgy in having a drawing inked on the flesh. But at one time, well within living memory, a heavily tattooed woman would be considered dangerous and suspect and could probably only find work in a traveling freak show (right next to the Bearded Lady).
Which brings us to this fine selection of women going under the needle and having some fanciful designs made upon their bodies. In their own way, each of these women was a pioneer of body art at a time when only criminals, sailors and lowlifes sported tattoos.
A soldier has her arm tattooed in tattoo parlor in Aldershot, England, 1951.
Woman getting a beauty mark tattooed on her face, Copenhagen 1956.
Deafy Grassman tattooing his wife Stella, circa 1930.
The legendary ‘King of Tattooists’ George Burchett tattooing a lady, 1930.
Actress Doris Sherrell getting her addres and Social Security number tattooed on her leg by tattoo artist Jack Julian.
Chas Wagner inking a flapper.
Via New Yorker State of Mind, BME, Vintage Everyday, and Buzzfeed.
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Inked ladies: Vintage photos of women with full body tattoos
Tattoo You: Meet Victorian England’s first tattoo artist
The good, the bad and the ugly: Tattoos of terrible political figures
Russian criminal tattoos
Explicitly perverse and provocative illustrations of Russian criminal underworld tattoos