18 September 2015

Margaret Treese: Iowa's Tattoo Murder Case

2019 UPDATE: The blog The True Crime Files published a piece on Margaret Treese in January 2019, and the blog published the photograph above, crediting the Davenport, Iowa newspaper The Morning Democrat with the image. Read the article here.

I was drawn to Margaret's story because she was originally from Steubenville, Ohio. Steubenville is less than five minutes from my hometown of Weirton, WV. Additionally, Margaret is buried in New Cumberland, WV, where she lived with her first and second husbands before leaving for the midwest; she's also buried there, as this article on findagrave.com reports. My grandparents lived in New Cumberland for many years--it's just fifteen miles from Weirton.

I was intrigued by the fact that she came from the same area along the Ohio River as I did. At the time in which Margaret would have lived in the Upper Ohio Valley, there weren't many opportunities for women. She was likely a teen bride when she married her first husband, who died in WWII, and her second husband was likely a steel worker, a coal miner, or a brickyard worker. She was destined to be a housewife and mother, probably with an alcoholic husband who worked shifts--the fate of most women of this time in this area of the country.

While newspaper accounts say that Margaret Beatrice (Martin) Treese was a circus attraction, she was working in a laundry at the time of her death. I am not convinced she ever was a tattooed attraction--she did not have a full suit of tattoo work, but just a few, scattered tattoos. I believe she either worked at the lower end of the sideshow circuit, maybe as a dancer, or she was a non-performer. She may have used the circus story to explain her tattoos, which for many years were considered to be the mark of a prostitute or woman of loose morals.

On the night of her death, she was in the company of two men. She was repeatedly run over by a car after being stabbed 10 to 15 times (reports vary). Both of the following links are detailed resources that compile information about Margaret Treese's murder.

Margaret Beatrice Treese: The Tattoo Murder Case

The Tattooed Lady: The Murder of Margaret Treese, 1947

It's interesting to note that neither link above, and none of the newspaper articles I've found, contains a photograph of Margaret. Many of the newspaper articles make note of her specific tattoo designs and their placements, but there are no photographs.

Also, this is still an open investigation--any information that would lead to a resolution to this case should be forwarded to the Davenport Police Department at 563-326-7979.

Frank & Emma Caldwell: Knife Throwers and Tattooed Couple

Frank and Emma Caldwell were actively working the circus and sideshow circuit in the early 20th Century. While there is not much written about them. They were a knife-throwing act that added tattoos as a way to better ensure employment--offering a "two attractions in one" for the price could sweeten the deal for traveling shows. However, the Caldwells weren't well-known enough to have much surviving history.

Emma Caldwell has one known portrait (the one above)--it's included in Bodies of Subversion by Margot Mifflin on page 17 as a photo of an "unidentified" tattooed attraction. Frankly, I've not seen the photo identified as Emma before, but I believe it is her, after comparing this portrait to the two cabinet cards below. The images are faint, but you can see that both Caldwells are fully tattooed.

The cabinet card above, dated "1899" in pen, is part of the Ronald G. Becker Collection of Charles Eisenmann Photographs at Syracuse University. (The couple's other cabinet card, was found on Pinterest, with no link back to the original source.) The couple toured with John Robinson's 10-in-One in the summer of 1900, as members of the sideshow. They were billed as "tattooed wonders and Mexican knife throwers."

While I don't know much more about Emma Caldwell at this point, I did want to make note of her unidentified photo in the Mifflin book. She and her career are a little earlier than the focus of my research, but I still find her incredibly interesting.

16 September 2015

Dainty Dotty: not a tattooed lady, but still deserving of her place in tattoo history.

I'm veering a little off-topic by writing a bit about Dainty Dotty, because she wasn't known as a tattooed lady. However, she was a circus fat lady for years, and after marrying tattooist Owen Jensen, she became a tattooist as well. They worked as a team, eventually settling in Los Angeles after meeting in Detroit, MI. The photo below shows Dotty and Owen Jensen with Tatts Thomas and his wife.

Dotty is best known by this delightful cabinet card/souvenir photo from her time as a circus attraction. When she began tattooing, she did not actively work on a body suit, setting her apart from the other early 20th Century female tattoo artists I've been researching.

The photo above is also part of Bernard Kobel's "Human Oddities of the Circus Sideshow" collection of photographs. It is photograph 170 in that catalog, but Kobel's collection also contains photographs of Dotty labeled 177, 248, and 890 in the same catalog. (I have not seen copies of those three photos.)

2019 EDIT: I believe the photo below is one of the three Kobel photos I've not before seen.

In a wonderful stroke of luck, someone at the blog Artworld Confidential wrote this little article titled "Let Us Now Praise Dainty Dotty and all Circus Women" about Dotty in May of 2014.  In this article, the writer IDs Dotty as being present in a "Congress of Freaks" photograph with Mae Vandermark and the India rubber man who eventually committed suicide over his unrequited love for Mae (more on that story at another time). And, the same blog offered this article "Winning the Fat Lady" in January 2014 about Dotty as well. Both articles include wonderful images, and both articles seem very well researched. I'm pleased to share links to them, and to know that people remember Dotty and recognize her role in (and contribution to) tattoo history. Worth noting, the Artworld Confidential blog is full of wonderful tattoo history. It's worth a browse.

2019 EDIT: The same blog ran this brief article in January 2015.

It is interesting to note that Dotty may not have ever been tattooed at all--I've not found any photos or anecdote that mentions any tattoo. (The Tattoo Archive, incidentally, notes that historians say Dotty was tattooed by Owen, but there are no known photographs. Their article on Owen Jensen is interesting; there is not a separate article on Dotty.)

Dotty and her husband had a successful career tattooing others--below are photos of Dotty and Owen tattooing customers in a traditional early 20th Century tattoo booth. (These were often located inside a barber shop.) Some of Dotty's original designs are still used in traditional tattoo flash today, and while tattoo flash by Owen Jensen and  "The Jensens" may be better known, Dotty was respected as an artist in her own right.

Because of the Jensen's role in Los Angeles tattoo history, Dotty's professional story is a little more consistent than those of tattooed attractions who toured for most, if not all, of their professional careers. However, just like the rest of the women in the realm of my research interests, her personal life is largely unknown.

2019 EDIT: When checking links in this article in September 2019, I came across the following photograph of the Jensens on a blog called Speedboys.)

2019 EDIT: Another page worth noting that's popped up since I first published this article is this one on Owen Jensen via Buzzworthy Tattoo. There is a photo of Dotty and Owen's son, Owen, Jr., as well as a photo or two of Dotty. The author of that page has more information on the Jensen's personal life, as found through the research of Owen Jensen. It's hard not to see how being married to a notable male tattoo artist helped to preserve more permanently certain portions of Dottie's history.

The now-defunct blog The Dead Bell has a detailed entry on Dotty and her grave, which is in the "Showman's Rest" area of LA's Evergreen Memorial Park. This photo is from that site--I love that she was buried as Dainty Dotty Jensen.

And, this obituary ran in The Milwaukee Journal on December 19, 1952. Other versions of the obituary mention that at the time of her son's birth, she weighed considerably less--350 pounds:

06 September 2015

A minor-but-important correction to a published tattoo historybook . . .

Within the tattoo industry and among tattoo enthusiasts, Steve Gilbert's book, Tattoo History: A Sourcebook, has been considered one of the most thorough books on tattoo history. It is exhaustive in many areas, but it's not quite an academic-level source--which is an issue with many of the "classic" and "important" tattoo books I've been reading this past year.

Gilbert's book has not been a useful source for me, because despite the subject matter promised by the title, the history offered within this book is a male history. Women are almost entirely unrepresented in the book.

This is something that's been increasingly criticized in recent reviews of the text on amazon.com and goodreads.com. Gilbert's book could be forgiven that oversight, perhaps, had it not been published in 2001. At that time, there was already a greatly-increased interest in the role of women in early U.S. tattoo history, and there were already scholars researching and compiling that history.

However, any research into tattooed women (even today) is difficult and the resulting information is scant--I assume that due to the easy availability of men's tattoo history, Gilbert made an easy choice . . . but the book does owe the reader at least a little more insight into women's roles in tattoo history.

In addition to the lack of women's history in Gilbert's book, there is also an error in photo identification on page 130 of the text.

This photo, from the Kobel collection, accompanies a section on Charlie Wagner (the tattoo artist seated in the lower right corner) and identifies the seated woman as Mildred "Millie" Hull. This is not Mildred Hull, however.

I believe the woman is "Big Liz," or Elizabeth Miller, but I'm only about 75% sure of that at this point. She was not a well-known tatttooed lady, and clear photos of her and her tattoos are few. (sidenote: I do know that Jean Furella Carroll is the woman standing at the center of the photo.)

This misidentification of Mildred Hull is a professional slight that is two-fold. First, Hull was the first independent woman tattooist in New York City's Bowery, and she is the first known female U.S. tattooist who did not find her way to the profession via a tattooist husband.

Her life was cut short by suicide, but she played an important role in NYC's tattoo history. However, she does not have a section in Gilbert's book. And, the double whammy--Gilbert (or his editors) didn't fact-check the book's photos.

If one considers the number of times that this sort of mistake has happened over the years in the small pool of women's tattoo history, and it is surprising to me that any accurate history exists at all.

The photo below is also in Gilbert's book, a few pages later . . . this actually IS a photo of Mildred Hull, Charlie Wagner, and Jean Carroll. This negative is also in the Kobel collection. From the same period of time, give or take a few years (using Carroll's appearance to judge), but Mildred and Elizabeth do not look alike.

To me, it's a blatant instance of a woman with tattoos being "The Tattooed Lady" instead of having any identity beyond that. In an industry-respected book of tattoo history, however, it's an error that's difficult to forgive.

30 August 2015

The Tattooed Lady, and the New Woman of the 1920s.

This 1920s-era photo makes me believe there was at least some crossover audience between those who attended circus sideshows and those who supported women's rights/women's suffrage initiatives. (And besides that, the image itself is glorious.)

A few tattoo historians claim that professional tattooed women of the 1920s, who were largely from impoverished and working-class backgrounds, were likely under-informed (if not uninformed) of current events and women's rights issues, and that they belonged to a class of women who didn't expect change from any women's rights movement. 

I don't know how this could be true--once the country entered into the 1920s, especially in urban areas. Large port cities like New York City and Baltimore had a steady stream of new customers, so tattooists were able to ply their trades (tattooing at barber shops and tattoo parlors, or working as attractions in dime museums) in the inner cities when circus work and warm weather came to an end. These same tattooed attractions would then be subject to vast quantities of downtime in cities with numerous daily tabloids and newspapers, and too many movie houses and theaters to count. To assume that they were unaware of the cultural atmosphere because of their class standing seems to sell these women short.

Additionally, by the 1920s, vaudeville had permeated the circus sideshow and the carnival stage--even big-name actresses were taking turns on the boards to earn a little extra money--and the resulting links between vaudeville, professional theater, and the feminist movement have been previously established in academic scholarship. However, because tattooed ladies and vaudeville entertainers traveled on the same shows together, it is an easy to assume that female sideshow attractions could (and would) be exposed to the same politics and "new" feminist ideas as women in vaudeville troupes.

It is important to note that a few tattoo historians also claim that the urban, politically-motivated feminist New Woman was too involved with the suffrage movement to notice the potential future "meaning" assigned to the role of tattooed ladies. It seems to me that at least some of these New Women were aware of what The Tattooed Lady stood for to the working class--according to this photo above, she was a well-recognized symbol of independence and forward thinking.

19 August 2015

Circus Museum: The Friedlander poster collection of Jaap Best

This is the largest known collection of Friedlander circus posters in the world. It doesn't come up in google searches all the time, and it's a great resource for circus-poster imagery. This collection was owned by the circus archiver Jaap Best. From the website:

"After Best’s death, Teyler Museum agreed to facilitate storage of the archive and to open the collections to the public. At the same time, to make the posters more generally available, Pictura was approached to make digital photographs which could be posted online. The website circusmuseum.nl was launched on 9 June 2005."


There are only a few tattoo posters in the archive, but it's wonderfull to see this vast slice of European circus history. And now, copies of the posters may be downloaded for research and educational purposes. I have seen MANY Friedlander poster copies for sale on etsy. Just know that those etsy shops do not possess the copyrights to those posters' images. And, you can purchase from this archive--I've not done so (yet), but I assume they'd ship to the U.S.

National Fairground Archive

Yesterday, I found an incredible resource during some random googling of circus-related terms. Frankly, I'm regularly amazed at what I can find with google and a little time; this archive has not come up during any of my searches for sideshows. I found a photo of a knife-throwing family on a blog--they credited the National Fairground Archive, which I'd not heard of before.

This is photo postcard is a souvenir of Princess Cristina's show--and that is Cristina, in the long robes. I've only seen two or three photos of Cristina in the past, and I don't believe she ever toured the U.S. So, she's not in my area of immediate interest for the essay project, but I was still really thrilled to find a vintage tattooed-woman postcard I've not seen before!

The National Fairground Archive is affiliated with the University of Sheffield, and theirs is a free, open resource. Many of their photographs are from the 1960s through the early 1980s, so there are a lot of wonderfully garish, vintage color photos of carnivals and fairs there.

Like this Paul Angel photograph, taken in 1987 at the Durdham Downs Easter Fair. I don't know why this fish-themed ride would be called the Polyp, but this photograph is delicious. LOL.

I haven't done much investigating of the archive yet, but I love the chance to share a new resource for circus, carnival, and fair-related photography. The fact that they allow printing and downloading of the images is incredibly generous, too.

17 August 2015

Agnes Riemer, Tattooed Lady and Murder Victim

A lesser-known tattooed attraction named Agnes Riemer, who lived in Baltimore, met with a tragic end in August of 1947. During some searching in newspaper archives, I stumbled on this first article. It was my introduction to Agnes and the story of her death.

She worked for years as "Agnes Kelly, the Tattooed Woman" in and around the Baltimore area. I know from census records that she had a first husband named John Kelly, but I do not know what happened to him--nor do I know if Agnes was already tattooed during that marriage. By 1930, however, she had met Fred Sloman, a tattooed attraction, and became a boarder in his home. At some point in their living arrangement, they became involved. The eventually married, but after a few years of working as a tattooed couple, the two retired from circus life. They lived as civilians for eleven years, until Fred hanged himself without warning in 1946.

Within the same year, Agnes married another man, Lawrence Riemer, about 15 years her junior. And then, in 1947 (on the four-month anniversary of the wedding), he strangled her with a belt, in order to literally silence her. Because the husband painted himself as a victim of abuse, he received only one year in prison for her murder, even though he admitted to the crime. He did, however, set himself up for being called a "Meek Little Man" in the news. Every article paints him as a passive, weak man. I am guessing part of that is due to his defense.

The initial article (as well as some other articles) refer to the third husband as Lawrence or Larry. The article above unfortunately names him as "Harry Riemer." There are conflicting accounts--in some, he doesn't remember strangling Agnes, and in others, he did it because she was verbally abusive. Regardless, all accounts describe Agnes as a shrew, as a wife who was relentlessly abusive to Lawrence.

I haven't yet located any photos of Agnes or of any of her 3 husbands, and I haven't yet found consistent census records that fit their names and dates, so these newspaper articles are, right now, the only proof that she even existed.

And, in an interesting turn, I found a snippet about Agnes on a Riemer family timeline. Apparently both of Agnes's earlier husbands met "violent ends," but no more was said about that. Also, it was mentioned that Agnes was extremely violent and drank excessively. So, geneaology sites, so far, are just deepening this mystery.

10 August 2015

Research and Citation--An Ugly Truth

It seems too time-consuming to many, but proper citation of all sources--sketchy, online sources included--is something about which I'm passionate on a professional and a personal level. I enjoy teaching research and documentation--I like the fact that in one area of academic writing, there are rules. Clear, defined rules. Also, because I demand so much of my freshman comp students; I just can't tolerate shortcuts in citation from anyone. Toward the goal of showing future students that even I use the techniques that I endorse, I've been keeping a working bibliography of my sources as I've begun my reading and researching. I plan on sharing my process in future writing classes.

However, I also know that I'm twenty-five years older than most of my students. My idea of research and documentation comes from an entirely different era of education. I know that my students rely heavily on citation generators online, but because I went to school in the age of card catalogs, I have very little experience with those same generators.

Long story short, I couldn't pass up the chance to practice using a citation generator. After getting started, I decided that I still like the process of using a hard copy of some tabbed MLA guide or another, seriously. But, I decided to use the generator to create my entire annotated bibliography. The sabbatical project will likely have over 50 sources; right now, I have 38.

I randomly chose NoodleTools to create my annotated bibliography (in the photo above, you might notice it's called a "Works Cited" at NoodleTools, even with the annotations).

I was shocked to find that any error in formatting that I attempted to submit was caught by this program! Improper capitalization in a title? This program catches it. Improper abbreviation of "revised"? This program doesn't stand for it. Now, the user must click on the yellow "!" sign that appears, and a small window explains what in that component of the citation is incorrect, so that the writer can fix it.

I was so impressed--but at the same time, I have no idea what the hell my students are using to create their citations online. I don't think I want to know--for reals. Many of my students' citations are still riddled with errors, so maybe I've just stumbled on a generator that's "better" than what's popular in the college's student body right now.

Regardless, I'm going to be taking screen shots of my entire process, so that I can use them in online courses as demonstrative teaching tools. I'm hoping that much of the time I'm spending on documenting my research strategies will help my instruction to resonate with students. And--now I have a specific citation generator to suggest to students, with a working knowledge of how to use it myself. Boom.

Anyhow, I have 32 of my sources cited and annotated now. I have all of my research completed for one of the tattooed women I'm writing about, so I think I'll be starting on at least one essay this week. I am so excited about what I've been able to find, and I'm also excited for what still may be out there!

06 August 2015

Some details in an art journal, and the creation of poetry.

Leafing through my art journal, and I'm amazed at what waits in there for more exploration. 

This bit of found poetry above is on the margins of this larger page: 

I look at that detail and realize I'm not without skill. And some days it's hard to find a toe-hold when it comes to confidence.

I often think I need to be more focused--and then I realize these bits of poetry and puzzle came from a definite lack of focus. So there's where I am tonight, cats and vices gathered 'round me, trying to conjure a lack of focus. :)

05 August 2015

The Ronald G. Becker Collection at Syracuse University

By the by . . . I wanted to share what an amazing resource this is. Charles Eisenmann took photos of many circus acts and attractions, not just the tattooed, and the Becker Collection of Charles Eisenmann photographs at Syracuse is filled with simply gorgeous victorian photos (and this archive's treasures don't come up in google searches).

To me, this is a perfect example of why the Internet and a few google searches are not "good enough" when it comes to academic research--regardless of topic or skill set. As a colleague of mine is known for saying: "Dig deeper."

The Ronald G. Becker Collection

30 July 2015

Researching a Project and Using Note Cards

don't do much of my own research-based writing, because I teach at a community college. Community colleges don't require research of their professors--even those who are full time. We just teach a lot more--even with a few lit courses and department chair duties mixed in, I teach at least six sections of composition per year. It's a lot of work. 

That being said, I would rather teach students to write solid, well-developed research papers than teach them to write "better" poetry or to appreciate shitty-but-classic novels. Teaching composition is just what I do well, and there's coincidentally less bullshit involved.

As my tattooed-lady project unfolds and I discover more sources, I have decided to start taking photos of my note-taking and research organization. That's really why I mention my teaching--I want to be able to eventually show students that I teach them the same techniques I use myself. We'll see if that makes any difference when I use examples from my own research work in class.

Below is a current shot of my coffee table. (No worries--most of those index cards are still blank.) Everything in pink (highlighting, post-its, and notecards) is general sideshow information that will become part of the first chapter/essay/whatever of introduction and context. I use post-it notes to flag the pages where notecard info is located. Obviously, I own that book. 

At this point, I have read/re-read at least eight books. I have note cards pulled from (and annotations complete in) four of them, and I'm working through the fifth book today. Three more books are waiting in a stack on my dining-room table. There they are. I'll talk more about them later. 

I have about a dozen articles bookmarked on my laptop as well, and I just ordered three more probably-crappy, self-published tattoo "history" books today (with what might be the last spare bit of credit-card balance I have). I also need to go to campus to pull a few texts from the library and make photocopies from them. The stack of sources below have already been put through the wringer. 

On a side note, it's starting to look like I might need to go to Winston-Salem, NC and San Fransisco this coming winter--and both trips will hinge on whether or not the owners of private tattoo museums will open displays to let me see the back sides of certain photographs. The prospect of that--asking and being turned down--is working on my anxiety big time. 

So, for now--note cards. Color-coded and organized. Print sources only, and no travel. Breathe in, breathe out.

28 July 2015

Alexia of Australia, or "Alexia, the Most Beautifully Tattooed Girl"

Alexia's real name was Hilder Alexandria, and she was tattooed by Bill Furness and Melbourne's R. M. Reynolds. Easily discernable from other tattooed females of her time, Alexia wore a more feminine and decorative style of tattoos than many of her American counterparts, who still wore tattoos heavy in patriotic and religious themes. Alexia was known for her unique collar, an uninterrupted chain of roses.

The photograph above is T-961 of the Bernard Kobel collection.

In the photo of Alexia's sideshow banner below, Melbourne tattooist R. M. Reynolds is at work. Of particular interest to me is the brief costume Alexia was advertised as wearing in the late 1930s and early 1940s. This suggests, perhaps, that Alexia was not just a tattooed attraction, but also part of a dancing troupe or burlesque review. While I'm only speculating about Alexia's individual story, it is true that most women who traveled as tattooed attractions were usually only tattooed on the skin that "showed"--and Alexia's torso tattoo-work is extensive. Many women with tattoo-work that extended to the breasts and stomach were employed, at least some of the time, as topless attractions. This might have been as burlesque dancers, or as blow-off acts.

This photo is available via the State Library of Victoria online [although the permalink function in their archive was not working when I wrote this].

Finding "The Tattooed Lady" and Writing Her Multiple Lives

I haven't written on my blog in over a year . . . and I overhauled it a little bit this past weekend, so that I can start posting some of the more difficult-to-uncover information that I'm finding as I research this writing project.

I was awarded a paid sabbatical from UCC for the spring term of 2015, and I have also taken the summer off. So, I have had a total of five months to work on my proposed project; however, the project wasn't cooperating at all. I planned a collection of poetry that would focus on women who thrive in the margins of society--I planned to research several womens' lives, focusing on vaudville acts, circus attractions, and other traveling performers. Not persona poems, but odes, or elegies, or both. And, I have written parts of several poems, but I had a lot of trouble translating what I wanted to do into an intelligible or organized project.

Regardless of my creative stumbling blocks, I continued with research--visiting the Circus World Museum in Baraboo, WI as a first step. After a few days in their library and archives, I found that there were far more American tattooed women working in the early 20th Century than any one book really covers. Several articles and books mention that there were an estimated 300 tattooed attractions working in the U.S. in the 1920s and 1930s, but only a few publications go further than that. Two contemporary books, one each from Margot Mifflin and Amelia Klem Osterud, offer insight into the lives of a number of tattooed women, but even if they covered ALL tattooed women of ALL time, their two books certainly do not seem like enough scholarship dedicated to covering this rich and virtually untapped well of women's history.

And, as I continued to read, I realized that even the very few contemporary books and articles on tattoo history all contain inconsistencies in information. With the number of inconsistencies in original newspaper articles, with embellishments in oral histories, with the advent of the online researcher's nemesis, Pinterest, and with the nature of legend, some tattooed women are repeatedly misidentified and their personality traits and histories have cross-contaminated in some instances, as if only a few tattooed ladies ever existed, and it never really mattered if their stories were 100% accurate and independent from each other's.

So, I started finding names to go with some photos of anonymous tattooed women, and I began researching each new name, cross-referencing with the Internet, my collection of photos, and available articles and books. As I compiled more "new" information, I realized that I really needed to tell the stories of these women when possible, even if only snippets of their lives are on record. At the very least, I feel they need their names back.

And, honestly, there is a sheer delight that comes with finding out a morsel of fact that NO ONE has ever noted before. I've found several pieces of information that were just *waiting* for someone to stumble onto them. It really seems like there just aren't enough writers or historians digging around in all the male-dominated tattoo histories to find and collect the women's stories. Yikes! I can't believe this is the case in 2015!

The sabbatical project, then, is morphing into a nonfiction collection of essays on these women and my quest to "find" them. There is also substantial information to suggest that several of these women were not the glamorous traveling showgirls they were painted as . . . but many of them were also burlesque dancers or strippers to make ends meet. Most of them worked in tandem with their tattooist husbands, and the women's tattoos were just a way for their mates to earn more money on the road. Theirs was not an easy life, and I think it's crucial that the fables are tempered with the real histories of these women, where available.

I am still reading and researching and organizing my findings . . . but I'm thrilled with the idea of writing these essays! I'm even more excited that they might be a book. I really struggled with wanting to write about tattooed women--I'm not sure it comes across as a gimmick, since I have a fairly large collection of tattoos. Maybe it would seem odder if I wasn't tattooed, but it doesn't automatically mean I'm qualified to write nonfiction . . . but I've decided that I can't deny my desire to try.

I already am realizing that not all the answers are out there. Some of this history has vanished forever. I just want to try and do my part to keep any more of this history from slipping away. Regardless of these women's individual motives, they were pioneers in body politics, long before anyone even knew what that meant. And, even if these women were more interested in making a living than making a statement, it does not diminish what they have come to stand for in the eyes of many younger women.

I am also going to try to use this blog more regularly, to share some of my findings--smaller stories, bits and pieces that aren't likely to be enough to foster an entire essay, and maybe some photos of tattooed women for whom I still don't have names.  I hope that some of my blog posts will also help to quell a little of the misinformation that is continually spread via the Internet. I'll do my best to be accurate, and to correct my mistakes as they are identified.