Illustrated Ladies: The Body, Class, and the Exotic in Victorian America and Britain
Kinard, Kelly Hogan
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Illustrated Ladies examines the figure of the tattooed woman in nineteenth century America and Britain within Victorian social and cultural constructs. Western exploration and imperialism dovetailed with developing criminal, medical, and human sciences. The tattoo became a central image within these elements. Appearing on the bodies of the foreign "savage", the criminal, and the lower class - the tattoo carried "uncivilized", criminal, and masculine connotations. At the same time, white women marked their bodies as a means of public and private rebellion against proscribed gender roles and Victorian ideals of femininity in a need to reclaim bodily agency that transcended class lines. Some women manipulated the tattoo as they displayed their marked bodies in public venues for profit, creating a level of financial independence that was rarely achieved during this period. The tattoo served as a means in which women could manipulate racial and gender identities, transform themselves into spectacles, and control the male gaze. Representative of an emotive experience - the tattoo is an image created through pain that illustrated the corporal and psychical suffering of working and upper class women. Illustrated women reclaimed control of their external experiences by taking control of their suffering and displaying in on their bodies in the form of the tattoo.