Leonard and David McKay Gallery at the Pasetta House

Tattooed & Tenacious: Inked Women in California’s History


Saturday & Sunday
11:00 am to 4:00 pm
March 20 – December 31, 2016


McKay Gallery at the Pasetta House, History Park

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Today, more women than men have tattoos. But what about the first California women to get tattooed? Who were they, and why did they get inked? Discover the fascinating and largely unknown history of the the foremothers of modern tattooing prior to WWII.

Curator Amy Cohen originally created this exhibit at the Hayward Area Historical Society, exploring not only Native American women’s tattoos as an important rite of passage, but upper-class women who started the tattooing trend, working-class Tattooed Ladies who graced the stages of circus sideshows, and some of the first female tattoo artists in California. History San Jose is pleased to present Cohen’s original vision, with additional material featuring artwork and stories from local Santa Clara Valley contemporary tattoo artists and clients.

About the Gallery

The Pasetta House was moved to History Park in 1985. Thanks to a generous gift from the Pasetta family, restoration of the house began in 2004; the building was dedicated in 2005. Leonard McKay was instrumental in planning this space as a gallery with climate control and lighting that would meet museum standards suitable for exhibiting art and artifacts. This generosity has afforded History San José the opportunity to host multiple exhibits and to display countless works from its collection. History San José wishes to thank these families for their significant and permanent contribution to History Park and to the community.

About Leonard McKay

A native of Los Gatos and World War II veteran, McKay ran the Smith and McKay Printing Company in San Jose until 1983, when he sold ownership to his son David. From 1986 to 2003, he operated Memorabilia of San José at 250 West St. John Street. In the 1960s, he began collecting paintings by local artists such as A.D.M. Cooper, Andrew Putnam Hill, and Louis O. Lussier. Passionate about local history, McKay was active in the Santa Clara County Pioneers, History San José, and the Sourisseau Academy for State and Local History.

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