Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Blue Tattoo: The Life of Olive Oatman” as Want to Read:
The Blue Tattoo: The Life of Olive Oatman
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Blue Tattoo: The Life of Olive Oatman

3.57 of 5 stars 3.57  ·  rating details  ·  610 ratings  ·  135 reviews
In 1851 Olive Oatman was a thirteen-year old pioneer traveling west toward Zion, with her Mormon family. Within a decade, she was a white Indian with a chin tattoo, caught between cultures. The Blue Tattoo tells the harrowing story of this forgotten heroine of frontier America. Orphaned when her family was brutally killed by Yavapai Indians, Oatman lived as a slave to her ...more
Hardcover, 280 pages
Published April 1st 2009 by University of Nebraska Press (first published January 1st 2009)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Blue Tattoo, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Blue Tattoo

Captive in the Dark by C.J. RobertsStolen by Lucy ChristopherSeduced in the Dark by C.J. RobertsConsequences by Aleatha RomigComfort Food by Kitty Thomas
412th out of 495 books — 1,493 voters
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee BrownEmpire of the Summer Moon by S.C. GwynneElsie by Barbara Anne WaiteWomen's Diaries of the Westward Journey by Lillian SchlisselPioneer Women by Joanna L. Stratton
The American Frontier
111th out of 265 books — 54 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,914)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Truth be told, the excerpt on the cover told the story better than the 209 pages of text.

What’s touted as the biography of “a thirteen-year old pioneer traveling west toward Zion, with her Mormon family”(teaser on cover) is written with an obvious anti-Mormon sentiment. The Oatman family are actually “Brewsterites”, a group headed by James Colin Brewster, a self-proclaimed prophet, determined to start his own church after disagreeing with the doctrine of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day
One of the first things which struck me about Margot Mifflin’s The Blue Tattoo: The Life of Olive Oatman (Women in the West) was the title. Why is a book which is supposed to be about the life of a woman called, “The Blue Tattoo”? Was this deliberate? Has the individual woman’s identity become so lost or submerged behind the ink of her facial markings that she has all but disappeared? Or has the author simply failed to find or portray her? These and other questions intrigued me almost as much as ...more
I happened on the cover picture in a blog recently, and like many people, immediately thought "Hey, that's the tattoo from Hell on Wheels". Apparently the character's tattooing in that series was borrowed explicitly from Olive Oatman's. It's ironic that the TV character was a prostitute, as the Oatman's history as a captive of the Yavapai and Mohave raised questions about her sexuality in her own time.

Olive Oatman was a 14-year-old member of a Mormon splinter group. Her family was killed by Yav
May 19, 2010 Amy is currently reading it
Olive Oatman was my great grandfather's cousin. Her family was massacred while traveling to California, and Olive and her sister were held captive. Years later, she was returned to white society. I grew up with this story, but recently several new books have been written about her. This one is supposed to be really good!
Since I have a pretty strict standard for 5 stars (see: Name of the Wind; that sets my standard), this was a struggle - I wanted to give it 4.5 stars because I split hairs like that, but in the end the 5-star rating won out. This is a sympathetic and highly informative account of Olive Oatman's life, and also summarizes other accounts written about her (without getting bogged down in them). It also touches on the Other status of natives, women, those with tattoos, etc., in society in the mid 180 ...more
This is my favorite type of biography because it tells one person's amazing story couched in a larger historical and social perspective. Olive Oatman's tale is a fascinating account of one woman's adaptability and courage in the wild west, a strange frontier where women were expected to have great fortitude but still maintain their Victorian purity and gentleness. As the first tattooed white woman in America, she walked the fine line between being a heroic victim and an Indian-loving freak. Edit ...more
This book traces the life of Olive Oatman whose family was attacked on their way west. Only Olive and her sister were spared and they were soon after traded to the Mojave tribe where she appears to have found happiness. During her five years with this tribe, the white man crept ever closer. Although Olive was close enough to the proximity of white people she never tried to escape and when ransomed, she didn't want to leave.
Her brother woke some hours after the attack and found his way to Fort Yu
I didn't know that "women in captivity" was an entire genre of 19th century writing. The first such book was 'A True History of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson," and was actually the first American bestseller in 1682. It was the story of a preacher's wife who spent 11 weeks in captivity among the Narragansett Indians in 1675. Times haven't changed: a great story sells.

This particular history is among many of the written stories and versions of Olive Oatman, many fictionaliz
Tiffany Fay
After Olive leaves the Mohave tribe, we only hear about them again when Irataba goes East. I would have appreciated a look at what the tribe was doing throughout the entire story (which yes I know would have made the book longer, but it would have added to my understanding. If, as Mifflin states, Olive considered herself a Mohave - which we'll never know truthfully - then wouldn't it be nice to know what her tribe was undergoing?)

Also, I kind of feel as if we're not hearing Olive's story. There'
Pamela Pickering
Although I'm sure Mifflin's research was good I became irritated when it became clear to me that this was another book that sucks you by making you believe it will tell you the story of the subject in the title but the title subject is only a tiny thread in the book. The author basically tells Oatman's story early on--a big mistake on her part. If I hadn't known how Oatman left her Native American captors I might have plugged through all of the historical facts about Brewsterite Momrmons, variou ...more
Very disappointing....I enjoyed the (short) story part but didn't expect the dissertation on the various other books pertaining to Olive Oatman. This author spent more time tearing about the other books as not believable and spent a lot of time on Stratton, the preacher who "helped" write Olive's own story, explaining in depth how the autobiographical account was half truths and Stratton's beliefs rather than Olive's actual feelings and experiences. I'd also guess the footnotes, citations, refer ...more
This book is very interesting! Mifflin aims to rework the historical interpretation of Olive Oatman, the first white woman to have been tattooed in the United States. Countless analysts have indicted the Mohaves she lived with, but Mifflin insists that Oatman had accultured and wanted to stay with them instead of returning to white society. The writing is overall quite readable, but some parts were difficult to follow in the sense that I wasn't sure why they were included. I'd be very interested ...more
While watching "Hell on Wheels" the character of Eva intrigued me - why did she have the chin tattoo? According to the story-line it meant "two blankets and a horse" and supposedly that's what she was sold for. In researched and found this book "The Blue Tattoo: The Life of Olive Oatman". There were a number of books available about her and I'm glad I landed on this one. It appeared that the author spent a good amount of time investigating the truths portrayed in other stories including the orig ...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
I enjoyed this book for a variety of reasons. one of the most prominent is that history isn't just facts. History always has a bias, intentional or not. Whether it be religion, politics, culture, or anything else, reported history takes on the bias of the writer. Even though this book delves into the live of Olive Oatman, it depicts how that life was represented by those who wanted to make a buck, become famous in their own right, or how we ourselves remember our own past when influenced by the ...more
Terrific. The true story of Olive Oatman- all but three of her family members were murdered by Indians and Olive and her sister Mary were taken hostage. They were traded from one tribe to another and Olive assimilated into the Mohave lifestyle after four years. She was forcibly returned to white society bearing a "blue tatoo" on her chin that forever seperates her from white society. Fascinating and haunting.
Sara Hearing
This book is a biography of the one of the well known captives of the Indians in the 1800s. The protagonist is no heroine, but her story is sure remarkable. The style of writing is at a medium pace, but is written in a third person point of view with great sources to their facts and well thought out theories.
This book is very fascinating and intriguing about this woman's life with details of her enslavement and her journey afterwards. However, this wasn't my favorite book. It may be that this
It started out good, like a novel. But then it went into a lot of detail about events at the time that didn't seem all that relevant...just narrative to add to the length to make it a decent "novel size". I read this book for my book club. It was not something I normally would have picked to read; however, I did enjoy reading outside my normal zone.
I really liked this on, it isn't a very thick book, but packs a lot of information into it! I had never heard of Olive Oatman before this book, but I have always had a huge interest in Native Americans/First Nations people and found this to be a well written and thought provoking read!
Erika Koneck
I really enjoyed reading this book. It's the true story of a young Morman girl traveling west with her family.

Within a decade she is a white girl living with the Indians with a chin tattoo. I think it is worth the read.
Malorie Shannon
I just finished Margot Mifflin's "The Blue Tattoo: The life of Olive Oatman". I had actually never heard of Olive until one night I was watching "Ghost inside my child" and she was spoken of and this book was shown. So I decided to get it. I am very glad that I did. This was a great historical book. Ms. Oatman suffered very much but managed to still have a full life. Her ordeal and the people who controlled and pulled at her was hard to read about but was sadly the norm for the time. It also was ...more
Kristali Teuscher
I really liked this book until, about halfway through, the author strayed from Olive's story and told the stories of a bunch of other characters. Then I got bored and just wanted to hurry and finish the book. Also didn't love that the author said she was a Mormon pioneer when after reading the first couple chapters it was obvious her family chose to leave the Mormon church and travel with a different group of people to a different place out west. However, it was so fun to read about the history ...more
I first saw a white woman tattooed on the chin in the "Hell on Wheels" TV series. I was not watching it I just happened to glance at the screen. It was an interesting idea and I thought no more about it. Then I happened to come across a book (at the Fort Laramie museum in Fort Laramie Wyoming) about a girl named Olive Oatman who had blue tattoo on her chin. I was fascinated by the cover and spurred on by the earlier memory I picked up the book and read the back. I forgot my wallet that day so sa ...more
Not only is this account of a family taking up roots and moving westward, it is an account of a young woman's capture and how the "media" twisted her story to sell books. It is also during an era of feminine recognition...breakout of the timeless role of a woman's submission no longer, opening up her world to education and public speaking. It spurred a new genre of the1800's captivity books. How Olive was able to readjust and re acclimate is amazing! The Oatman Masacre lives on, the basis for ot ...more
Margot Mifflin here does great work distinguishing known fact from speculative fiction with regard to Olive Oatman, a "white" Mormon girl abducted by, then adopted into, two separate southwestern Native American tribes. Oatman's life after she returned to "American" society was fodder for manipulative men who profited from her story, journalists exploiting fear of Indians to sell papers and books, Christians wishing to prove their God was was one true salvation of the unwashed heathen savages, e ...more
This book was both interesting and disappointing. The disappointment was because I've been reading all of these stories of heavily documented historical things (e.g., (The Ice Balloon: S. A. Andrée and the Heroic Age of Arctic Exploration), where the author can draw from several sources. As the subject of this story didn't record her observations, and the author was very clear in not putting words in her subject's mouth, it didn't feel as intimate as what I was hoping.

In fact, that's one of the
Very interesting story of a young woman who lived with the Mohave Indians after her family was killed by the Yavapai. Four years later she was "rescued" and became a celebrity when a book was written about her experiences. This book attempts to get to the real story which was largely lost due to the prejudices and political agendas of the time.

I was shocked to learn that many abolitionists harbored a great hatred for Indians and wanted to see them exterminated! I suppose in the future we'll loo
The author notes that to the best of her ability she has tried to write a true account of the life of Olive Oatman. Olive and her sister, Mary, were kidnapped by the Yavapai Indians and were slaves for the year they lived among them. They were ransomed from the Yavapai by the Mohave Indians. Mary Oatman was very weak and eventually died, but Olive lived in peace and security among the Mohaves for four years. The girls believed the rest of their family had been massacred by the party of Yavapai w ...more
Fascinating! Margot Mifflin does a profoundly good job of peeling away the fictions and stories of hangers-on to get to what can really be known about the story of Olive Oatman, a 14 year old pioneer girl who's family was killed and she and her sister taken into captivity by the Yavapai and later traded to the Mohave tribe. By all researchable accounts, she was not only adopted fully by the Mohave, a tribe who's physical beauty and extraordinary happiness and good humor were remarkable traits (t ...more
Becky Loader
Olive Oatman's family was massacred in an attack by Indians in the early 1850's. She and her sister were taken captive and sold to a group of Mohaves. She lived with them for four years (her sister died after two years of captivity) and then was "freed" by negotiation to return to white society. I was troubled by Olive's manipulation and exploitation by the people who "rescued" her. Oh, my goodness. A Methodist minister wrote a book about her captivity which was full of mis-representations, omis ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 63 64 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Thuggin In Miami (The Family Is Made : Part 1)
  • A Schoolteacher in Old Alaska: The Story of Hannah Breece
  • The Great Arizona Orphan Abduction
  • The Discovery of Jeanne Baret: A Story of Science, the High Seas, and the First Woman to Circumnavigate the Globe
  • The Captured: A True Story of Abduction by Indians on the Texas Frontier
  • Hard Road West: History and Geology along the Gold Rush Trail
  • Billy the Kid: The Endless Ride
  • Rachel Calof's Story: Jewish Homesteader on the Northern Plains
  • Molly Brown: Unraveling the Myth
  • Book of the Hopi: The first revelation of the Hopi's historical and religious world-view of life
  • American Queen: The Rise and Fall of Kate Chase Sprague — Civil War "Belle of the North" and Gilded Age Woman of Scandal
  • Chief Joseph & the Flight of the Nez Perce: The Untold Story of an American Tragedy
  • Notorious Victoria: The Life of Victoria Woodhull, Uncensored
  • Secret Lives of the First Ladies
  • American Massacre: The Tragedy at Mountain Meadows, September 1857
  • The Log of a Cowboy: A Narrative of the Old Trail Days
  • The Scarlet Sisters: Sex, Suffrage, and Scandal in the Gilded Age
  • Between XX and XY: Intersexuality and the Myth of Two Sexes
Margot Miffln is an author and journalist who writes about women, art and contemporary culture. The author of Bodies of Subversion:A Secret History of Women and Tattoo, she has written for The New York Times,The New Yorker, Entertainment Weekly, The Believer, and Mifflin is a professor in the English Department of Lehman College of the City University of New York (CUNY), and co-directs ...more
More about Margot Mifflin...
Bodies of Subversion: A Secret History of Women and Tattoo, Third Edition

Share This Book

“The [Gila River area is] so utterly desolate, desert, and Godforsaken, that Kit Carson says a wolf could not make his living upon it.” | U.S. Representative THOMAS HART BENTON addressing the house of representatives, June 26, 1854” 0 likes
More quotes…