“I decided to get a tattoo. I wanted to be independent and take care of myself.”
Betty Broadbent, born in 1909, was the most famous tattooed attraction of all time. Nicknamed the Tattooed Venus, in 1923 she moved from Orlando, Florida, to Atlantic City to work as a nanny.
His interest in tattoos was sparked when he met a tattooed man who was exhibiting on the Broadwalk. During his time, tattoos were not at all popular with women, but were more associated with sailors and gangsters.
Originally, she wanted to become a tattoo artist, but decided to become a work of art because she needed quick money. With that in mind, she convinced herself to get a tattoo. Riding horses in the rodeo, he saved up enough money and ventured to New York to get his tattoos.
Over a period of two years, Charlie Wagner and Joe Van Hart worked to model his body with approximately 365 tattoos. At the time, they were among the first tattoo artists in the world to use electric tattoo machines.
Finally, in 1927, she joined Ringling Brothers and the Barnum and Bailey Circus as the world’s youngest tattooed woman at just 18 years old.
For her performance, she would first appear on stage covered in a robe. Then the emcee would announce, “And now, ladies and gentlemen, the lady is different!” I know, it sounds tacky.
Then she would unbutton her robe and underneath, she had on a long bathing suit that ended four inches above her knees. Unbeknownst to many, Broadbent actually hated the “unethical” tactics his employers used to attract clients as much as his nickname, Tattoo Venus.
For the curious, Broadbent wore Pancho Villa on his left leg, Charles Lindbergh on his right leg, and had a portrait of Madonna and Child on his back. Despite her tattoos, she strove to project a feminine and refined image of herself.
Broadbent was one of the last working tattooed ladies in the United States, only retiring in 1967 from the Clyde Beatty Circus after spending 40 years in show business. In 1981, he became the first person to be honored in the Tattoo Hall of Fame. Sadly, he died peacefully in his sleep in 1983.