The legendary Bowery tattooist Charlie Wagner tattooing an unknown woman. Credit: Don and Newly Preziosi Collection

Margot Mifflin recently wrote a book called Bodies of Subversion; A Secret History of Women and Tattoo. These are some of our favourite images.

Those who would shame women with tattoos often utter things like: How are those things going to look when you’re old and wrinkled? On the basis of the photographs of older women with tattoos in this book, I’d say they hold up pretty well. In fact, I’d say they look sort of awesome.

Betty Broadbent, in the 1920s. Credit: Circus World Museum, Baraboo, Wisconsin

Cindy Ray, in 1962. Credit: Randy Johnson

The tattooist Irene “Bobbie” Libarry, in 1976. Credit: Imogen Cunningham Trust

Tattoo by Saira Hunjan

For most of history, tattooing has been a male preoccupation, either a one-fingered salute or an exercise in swagger. Think of Popeye and his twin anchors. Ms. Mifflin had the good idea to examine tattooing in the Western world from a female perspective. Her relatively slim book doesn’t provide a truly wide-angle view, but the insights she brings are insinuating and complex.

If you would like to read about the book, click here.

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