While I had heard of Victorian women getting tattooed before, I had never seen any physical evidence of that trend until I found Maud Wagner.
But Maud was not the only one getting her whole body tattooed, apparently it was trendy and in-fashion for upper class women to "collect" tattoos.
It is amazing that through such a repressive society, photographs like this exist. One would think that even if it were a trend, women would never be allowed to pose for photographs revealing so much skin, especially if it were covered in tattoos.
My theory is that women used tattooing as a way to re-claim their bodies for themselves. Society and men in powerful positions continually forced them to wear restrictive clothing that was unbearably uncomfortable and kept them from being able to engage in activities. Besides that, items like the corset, were extremely detrimental to women's health and put dangerous pressure on vital organs.
The other aspect of tattooing is its highly erotic and sexual quality. Everything about a tattoo is sexual from the pleasure received from the pain of getting the tattoo to the eroticism of a women's naked flesh with a secret tattoo, hidden, only revealed in sexual acts.
I want to explore how this trend of tattooing came to be regarded as something acceptable for upper class women in such a tight laced society.