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March 27, 2015

Rare Portraits of Olive Oatman, the Girl With the Tattooed Face, From the 1850s

More than 150 years ago, Olive Oatman was a 14 year old traveling west in 1851 when Southwest Indians attacked her family’s wagon train in Arizona (then Mexico), capturing Olive and her seven-year-old sister Mary Ann.

The girls lived with their captors for a year, then were traded to the Mohave, who tattooed her face and raised her as their own. Mary Ann died, and Olive was ransomed back to the whites in 1856, wearing a chin tattoo. She became a celebrity in her day, embarking on a lecture tour promoting a book that Rev. Royal B. Stratton wrote about her ordeal, The Captivity of the Oatman Girls.

In 1865 Olive married John B. Fairchild, a cattleman. They adopted a baby girl. Fairchild burned all the copies of Stratton's book and stopped her lecture tours.

Later in her life she reportedly went to New York to talk with a Mohave leader about "old times." She always kept a jar of hazelnuts, a Mohave staple, as a reminder of her experience.

She died in 1903, aged 65.

(via Mashable/Retronaut)


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