Sunday, July 27, 2008

Betty Broadbent

This is the fabulous Betty Broadbent. She was the first person to be inducted into the Tattoo Hall of Fame and was probably the first famous woman with a full body suit tattoo. Born in 1909 she first encountered the world of tattoo at the tender age of 14. She eventually got a full suit from such pioneering tattoo artists as Charlie Wagner, Joe Van Hart, Jack Redcloud, Tony Rineager and Red Gibbons (who became her husband). She became a star in the sideshow circuit as one of the few heavily tattooed women and lived the circus life for some 40 years. She worked with all the major shows of the time: Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus, Cole Brothers, Sells-Floto and others. She left the stage for a few years to perform with a wild west show and during the off season she tattooed in San Francisco. She retired from public life in 1967, settled in Florida and died peacefully in her sleep in 1983.

These are the bare facts of her life and about all I can find out about her online. I'm surprised and quite disappointed that I can't find any images of her own tattoo art on the internet. She may have been the first female tattoo artist. She was certainly one of the most famous female tattoo artists and I'm very interested in learning about the quality of her work. Considering how famous a figure she was/is it would seem natural for her art to be showcased somewhere but I've come up empty. She must have been tattooing through most of the 60s so there are surely people still alive with her art on their bodies, but I can't seem to find any of it. Perhaps there is a book out there somewhere but if anyone knows of online images of her work I'd love to hear about it.


Nydia said...

What a brave woman! To be a pioneer in this kind of thing in her time must have been hard! All the prejudice that people still face nowadays can't be compared to that world. First time I hear about her, thanks for the info! I'll read more about her.

Livia Indica said...

Yep, she's kinda a heroine to me and many other female tattoo enthusiasts I imagine.