Yeah, tattoos are pretty cool, but are they still rebellious? Unless you go full out and get a facial tat, there aren’t many designs that will shock the general public… maybe not even your grandma. That’s because even her generation was inking up, with a few badass women getting tattooed as early as the late 1800s. Seriously, check out Emma de Burgh! She traveled America and Europe showing off her exceptional Last Supper back piece.
Many of the women featured here could be from our current era – sporting a few choice embellishments like the ever popular sparrow or a hidden butterfly. These brave and, yes rebellious, ladies chose to permanently decorate their bodies in times when it was seriously taboo – in these cases, between the late 1800s and the mid 60s.
Today we’re looking at far more creative tattoo work that that in the past – from tattoos that look like contemporary art, to those relying heavily on graphics, and some that simply remix imagery from the past – but all of the people sporting ink today owe a debt to the brave people who paved the way by adorning their bodies before everyone else.
Above: A naked lady riding a bird tattoo, 1928
Below: Who could that gentleman be? 1936
A tattooed butterfly garter belt will never fall down when you’re doing the Charleston, 1930s
Betty Broadbent, 1930s
Emma de Burgh. The famous tattooed lady and her wicked Last Supper tattoo, 1897
A horse and jockey tattoo, 1930s
Pam Nash, a champion tattooed lady with a Japanese garden scene across her back, 1960s
Maud Wagner, the first well-known female tattoo artist in the United States, 1907
A classic swallow tattoo, 1965
SSSSSnake tat, 1928
Beehive and a new tat, 1964