Annette Kellerman in her famous one-piece bathing suit that got her arrested!
It is because of the bravery of women like Annette Kelllerman that allows us to step away from the domination of men that even today want to dictate what is an acceptable place for women. The fact that we still have to fight for equality and have the say so over our own bodies shows us the battle has yet to be completely won.
Born Annette Marie Sarah Kellerman
6 July 1886
Marrickville, New South Wales, Australia
Died 6 November 1975 (aged 89)
Occupation Swimmer, actress, writer
Known for Swimmer, actress, writer, Inventor of Synchronised Swimming, Pioneer of women’s swimming.
Annette Marie Sarah Kellerman (6 July 1886 – 6 November 1975) was an Australian professional swimmer, vaudeville star, film actress and writer. She was one of the first women to wear a one-piece bathing costume, instead of the then-accepted pantaloons, and inspired others to follow her example.
She popularized the sport of synchronised swimming after her 1907 performance of the first water ballet in a glass tank at the New York Hippodrome. She has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Kellerman was famous for advocating the right of women to wear a one-piece bathing suit, which was controversial at the time. According to an Australian magazine, “In the early 1900s, women were expected to wear cumbersome dress and pantaloon combinations when swimming. In 1907, at the height of her popularity, Kellerman was arrested on Revere Beach, Massachusetts, for indecency – she was wearing one of her fitted one-piece costumes.”
The popularity of her one-piece suits resulted in her own line of women’s swimwear. The “Annette Kellermans”, as they were known, were the first step to modern swimwear. It may be argued that the “Annette Kellerman” is the direct ancestor of the unitard
In 1908, after a study of 3000 women, Dr Dudley A. Sargent of Harvard University dubbed her the “Perfect Woman” because of the similarity of her physical attributes to the Venus de Mil
In 1916, Kellerman became the first major actress to do a nude scene when she appeared fully nude in A Daughter of the Gods. Made by Fox Film Corporation, Daughter of the Gods was the first million-dollar film production. Like many of Kellerman’s other films, this is now considered a lost film as no copies are known to exist.
The majority of Kellerman’s films had themes of aquatic adventure. She performed her own stunts including diving from ninety-two feet into the sea and sixty feet into a pool of crocodiles. Many times she would play mermaids named Annette or variations of her own name. Her “fairy tale films”, as she called them, started with The Mermaid (1911), in which she was the first actress to wear a swimmable mermaid costume on film, paving the way for future screen sirens such as Glynis Johns (Miranda), Esther Williams and Daryl Hannah (Splash). She designed her own mermaid swimming costumes and sometimes made them herself. Similar designs are still used by The Weeki Wachee Springs Mermaids, including her aquatic fairy costume first introduced in Queen of the Sea (1918).
Kellerman appeared in one of the last films made in Prizma Color, Venus of the South Seas (1924), a US/New Zealand co-production where one reel of the 55-minute film was in colour and underwater. Venus of the South Seas was restored by the Library of Congress in 2004 and is the only feature film starring Kellerman known to exist in its complete form.
How To Swim (1918)
In addition to her film and stage career, Kellerman wrote several books including How To Swim (1918), Physical Beauty: How to Keep It (1919), a book of children’s stories titled Fairy Tales of the South Seas (1926), and My Story, an unpublished autobiography. She also wrote numerous mail order booklets on health, beauty and fitness.
A lifelong vegetarian, Kellerman owned a health food store in Long Beach, California. She and her husband returned to live in Australia in 1970, and in 1974 she was honoured by the International Swimming Hall of Fame at Fort Lauderdale, Florida. She remained active well into old age continuing to swim and exercise until a short time before her death.
Preceded by her husband in death, Kellerman died in the hospital at Southport, Queensland, Australia, on 6 November 1975, aged 89 and was cremated with Roman Catholic rites. Her remains were scattered in the Great Barrier Reef. She had no children.
Kellerman’s large collection of costumes and theatrical memorabilia was bequeathed to the Sydney Opera House. Today, many of her original costumes and personal items are held by the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney, Australia.
She was portrayed by Esther Williams in the film Million Dollar Mermaid (1952).
Kellerman’s name is on a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, on Hollywood Boulevard.
An award-winning Australian documentary called The Original Mermaid about Kellerman was produced in 2002.
A brand new swimming complex in Marrickville opened December 2010 has been named after her.
Kellerman photographed in the United States, 1907
The Bride of Lammermoor: A Tragedy of Bonnie Scotland (1909)
Jephtah’s Daughter: A Biblical Tragedy (1909)
The Gift of Youth (1909)
Entombed Alive (1909)
Siren of the Sea (1911)
The Mermaid (1911)
Neptune’s Daughter (1914)
A Daughter of the Gods (1916)
National Red Cross Pageant (1917)
Queen of the Sea (1918)
What Women Love (1920)
Venus of the South Seas (1924)
Miss Kellerman’s Diving Feats (1907)
Miss Annette Kellerman (1909)
The Perfectly Formed Woman (1910)
The Universal Boy (1914/I)
The Art of Diving (1920)
Annette Kellerman Performing Water Ballet (1925)
Annette Kellerman Returns to Australia (1933)
Water Ballet: Sydney (1940)
Water Ballet (1941)
The Love Goddesses (1965)
The Original Mermaid (2002)
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