Tattoo You

Sunday, January 31, at 5:00pm, Amelia Klem Osterud will read from her new book The Tattooed Lady: A History at Magers & Quinn.

Today, almost a quarter of Americans now have tattoos. Yet there was a time–not very long ago at all–when tattoos were not at all acceptable in mainstream society. To be tattooed was to be an outcast and a freak. Many women found freedom in their decorations, traveling the country, performing nearly nude on carnival stages, making a living as “The Tattooed Lady.”

The Tattooed Lady: A History uncovers the true stories behind these tattooed women of the circus sideshow, bringing them out of the sideshow and examining their working-class lives. These gutsy women spun amazing tall tales about abductions and forced tattooing at the hands of savages, but shared little of their real lives, and though they spawned a cultural acceptance of tattooing that we still see today, they have largely faded into history. Combining thorough research with more than a hundred historical photos, this lushly illustrated social history reveals tattoo origins, women’s history, and circus lore. The Tattooed Lady uncovers the remarkable women of the sideshow–many of whom were born and lived in the Midwest.

Amelia Klem Osterud is a tattooed academic librarian from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She has a Masters in history from University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and writes and lectures on the subject. The Tattooed Lady is her first book. Visit her blog at

This event is cosponsored by Live Fast Die Young Tattoo (44 Lowry Ave NE, Minneapolis; 612/789-5339;–David E