The Tattooed Lady: Artoria Gibbons

I was constantly getting scolded for drawing on my body as a young girl. My family as well as society were not entirely accepting to the idea of tattooed women. The taboo that was constantly surrounding tattoos only made it that more intriguing and difficult for me to resist.

Delving into my obsession of tattoos, I discovered the fascinating history of heavily tattooed women that dated back to the late 1800's in America. These fearless women pioneered through the rigid rules of society to create a living in the sideshow business. Tattooed ladies were flourishing during a time in history where a woman showing an ankle in public was deeply frown upon. A life in the sideshow provided opportunities to the working class woman that had little alternate options. Most of these tattooed beauties told infamous stories of being kidnapped by savages to be tattooed by "force". In reality these women made the courageous decision to completely tattoo their bodies in order to make a substantial living and travel.

Anna Mae Burlingston was born to poor immigrant farmers in Wisconsin. Anna grew up with hardship and worked to help support her family. She later met a man named Red Gibbons who was a very gifted tattoo artist during his time. It was not long before Anna and Red were married and after a few years of marriage they made the decision to work closely in the circus together. The circus was looking for a tattooed lady to join the show and in return she would get to see the world while working with her husband. Red would be the only tattoo artist that would complete her extensive work of religious painting replications. Anna quickly evolved into the well known Miss Artoria The Tattooed Girl. Artoria started her first sideshow in 1919 eventually traveling with Ringling Brothers and the Barnum & Bailey Circus. She performed in the sideshow carnivals for over fifty years becoming one of the most well-known tattooed ladies in American sideshow history.