The Blue Tattoo: the Life of Olive Oatman, by Margot Mifflin

Nov 4, 2010

What was life like for the woman in the old photographs with the elaborate tattoo on her chin? Who was she?  How did she get it?  Ms Mifflin answers these questions and sheds some light on the culture of the times in the 1850s, thoroughly researching the family history and the survivors’ lives.  Olive Oatman was 13-years old, traveling west with her family toward a Mormon Zion when the wagon train was attacked, her family massacred, and she and her sister were taken into captivity with the Yavapi Indians.  A year later, she was traded to the Mohaves, where she became thoroughly assimilated and was tattooed to demonstrate her membership in the tribe.  At the age of nineteen, she was ransomed back to the white society, the first known tattooed white woman in the United States.  Back in the white society, she became a divided symbol of two cultures, basically at war with each other.  This is truly a fascinating history, revealing how Olive’s circumstances and her tattoo were exploited for sensational purposes, and revealing her lifelong secret—she never wanted to go home.

Written by Susan B.