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Bodies of Subversion: A Secret History of Women and Tattoo Paperback – October, 1997

4.7 out of 5 stars 49 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

An indelible account of an indelible piece of cultural history. -- Barbara Kruger, artist

An outstanding read, and long-overdue addition to the growing body of literature on tattooing -- Intertnational Tattooing

Bodies of Subversion is a comprehensive and clear-eyed account of tattooing and women in Western society over the past century. Margot Mifflinfurthers understanding of this complex art as it exists among women. It is essential reading for anyone interested in the subject. -- Don E. Hardy, renowned tattooist and historian

In this provocative work full of intriguing female characters from tattoo history, Margot Mifflin makes a persuasive case for the tattooed woman as an emblem of female self-expression. -- Susan Faludi, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Backlash

About the Author

Margot Mifflin writes about women, art, and contemporary culture. She has written for The New York Times, The New Yorker, Entertainment Weekly, The Believer, and Salon.com, and she lectures about body modification at colleges, museums, and universities nationally. Mifflin is an associate professor in the English Department of Lehman College of the City University of New York (CUNY), and directs the Arts and Culture program at CUNY’s Graduate School of Journalism, where she also teaches. Her book The Blue Tattoo: The Life of Olive Oatman will be published by The University of Nebraska Press in March. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 183 pages
  • Publisher: Juno Books; First Edition edition (October 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1890451002
  • ISBN-13: 978-1890451004
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 8.8 x 11 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (49 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,839,816 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Margot Mifflin's book is an amazingly well-documented and thoroughly acurate telling of the secret history of tattooed women and women tattoo artists in America. I was interviewed extensively for this subject, and throughout the year she was gathering material I watched as Mifflin's knowledge and understanding of her subject matter grew.
Contrary to another UNSIGNED review posted here, I believe the women quoted are proud to have been included and I have not heard ONE of my peers complain about it.
Many people feel that tattooing has experienced a huge upsurgence of popularity in the last decade, but until this book most will not have had the perspective to realise just how common it was for your Grandma to have slipped off to get a wicked little something, possibly a secret only she and her husband shared. It is women's willingness to boldly display their tattoos, NOT their enthuisiasm for body art, that has changed.
Margot Mifflin brought her experience as an investigator with a feminist perspective to the organization of a vast wealth of material, helped by many of the important members of the tattoo community. We knew that this was unlikely to be a book one of us would write, and it most definately needed to be written.
From the circus ladies who chose to exhibit themselves as art to the educated graphic artists of today who choose tattooing as their art medium, the women of ink are grateful.
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Format: Paperback
As a heavily tattooed woman, I am constantly searching out the archives for great books regarding the subject. I've read some pathetically boooooring books in my day, but not only was this book exciting, but incredibly accurate as well. I particularly enjoyed the vintage photos of the earliest women to experience the needle...I am a first-hand example of familiarity with the stigma attached to beautiful women with beautiful tats, I can't even imagine the stigma held in the early 1900's...A great read for females AS WELL AS MALES just looking to brush up on some inkin' history or seeking out a career in the industry...
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Format: Paperback
As a relatively newly tattooed woman, I have embraced the culture and am looking to learn more about it. This book showed me what it was like for women with tattoos through the ages. The book is extremely well written and researched and the photos are fabulous. If you are a woman who has tattoos or is thinking about getting one, I highly recommend this book. I work in an extremely conservative environment and was brought up to believe tattoos are evil and dirty, so I struggled with my decision to get my tattoos, but this book not only made me feel more comfortable with my decision, it helped me with new ideas for my backpiece :)
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a must-read for anyone interested in getting a fuller history of tattooing. The book does an excellent, well-balanced job of weaving biographies and social commentary regarding tattoos and tattoo-ers. And it's a story that must, to be fully inclusive, tell of women's involvement in this art, both as tattoo-ers and tattoo-ees. I had no idea this art form went back so far as it does for western female tattoo afficionados. It's a fascinating story that's seldom told or discussed. It appears that nothing is held back in terms of the whys and hows that these women came to acquire their tattoos, or to have become tattoo-ers. And it's a great missing segment in women's history, and art history for that matter, that needs more exposure (no pun intended) to help dispell the myths and prejudices about women with tattoos. This is a great, ancient art form that deserves more expression, appreciation and respect by the general public, especially in the United States where folks are just too uptight and puritanical about this kind of art.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Wow! This book is rock solid and there is not another book like it. It strikes the perfect balance between genuinely great photos of tattoos and historical shots of tattoo artists and models, (how rare is that? I've bought a lot of books with a disappointing few and blurry shots) WITH a scholarly eye for historical detail IN a very engaging very story-telling, (rather than history lecture) way.

I don't know what anyone really interested in tattoo artistry could do without this. It's not just some waffly rah-rah 'ink chicks through history' throwaway. This really is an absolute essential for any tattoo history and historical seminal tattoo artist, OR even just 'what about all the Other tattoos, besides the noble and ubiquitous Sailor Jerry / Ed Hardy etc styles.

I'm not sure which made my head explode more. The number of hardcore artists who's work we've seen and seen copied, but who (surprise!) happen to be women, the gorgeous illustrations showing what I would NEVER have seen or known otherwise- early (victorian / edwardian era early tattoos- which I had no clue existed beyond sailor and port shops) were actually EXTREMELY well done and extremely patriotic, elaborately well framed and shaded portraits, anatomically (think 'audubon' quality) butterflies, birds and wildlife, intricate costume like lacework ends to tattoo sleeves and leggings- tons of deeply thought out well-excecuted patriotic drawings- IN tattoo, or the clobberingly well researched and well documented history of tattoos and society- PRIOR to what I always thought WAS 'the dawn of tattoos in the US- that 30's-50's era sailor and hotrodder artwork. Yes it's great and I love it. But how many people know that beloved SJ and Ed Hardy etc, that was the SECOND wave and a whole SECOND style of tattoo?
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