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The Body Beautiful

Date: c 1909
Overall: 235 x 100 mm, 2 mm
Medium: Ink on paper
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Object Name: Booklet
Object No: 00032999
Place Manufactured:New York

User Terms

    A booklet by Annette Kellermann titled 'The Body Beautiful' .
    The booklet is 40 pages long with text advocating an exercise course for women and photo illustrations of Annette Kellermann.
    SignificanceBeing renowned as the human likeness of a Greek sculpture, Annette Kellermann came to embody physical perfection. She advocated strongly for women’s health, in particular for fitness - through exercise and swimming - and was an early pioneer in encouraging women to get outside in the open air, clean water and get moving.
    HistoryAnnette Kellermann (1886-1975) was born in Marrickville Sydney and learned to swim at Cavill's Baths in Lavender Bay as a young child, partly in response to a weakness in her legs. Taking her swimming very seriously as a young woman she won her first New South Wales championship in 1902, gave exhibitions of diving, swam 16km along the Yarra River in Melbourne and began what was to become a long and illustrious career of aquatic feats.

    Kellermann moved to England in 1905 with her father and swam the Thames, the Danube and the Seine for fame and fortune. She also made three unsuccessful attempts to swim the English Channel. "...Covered in porpoise oil and with goggles glued to my face I began my journey at 2am accompanied by a steam tug and a rowboat. Eating hot soup, chocolate and tiny sandwiches from the end of a stick I soon became very seasick. Paid thirty pounds for my
    attempt I lost seven pounds of flesh. After three unsuccessful attempts to swim the channel it is clear that "...none of my sex will ever accomplish that particular stunt".

    Ending her professional swimming career after swimming the rivers of Europe she took to the stage. Her vaudeville act was a wild success in the USA , where she first appeared in 1906. This led to a successful career in silent movies where she performed her own stunts. After winning an American competition to find the world's most perfect female form (the first beauty contest) conducted by Harvard University in 1907 she became a strong advocate of women' s health and fitness. Kellermann also championed the right for women to wear bathing suits that were comfortable - her arrest for indecency on a Boston beach in 1907 led to a relaxation of laws related to women's costumes.

    Her perfect body and enthusiasm for educating the public made her an authority on all aspects of female physical beauty. In addition to publishing several books she held physical culture classes and gave lectures and demonstrations on the subject across the US unti lthe 1920s. A film of her life Million Dollar Mermaid starring Esther Williams was made in 1952.

    Kellermann returned to Australia in 1970 and died in 1975. Her ashes were scattered on the Great Barrier Reef.
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