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Postcard depicting Annette Kellerman

Date: c 1905
Overall: 88 x 137 mm
Display Dimensions: 88 x 37 mm
Medium: Ink on paper
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Classification:Posters and postcards
Object Name: Postcard
Object No: 00031908

User Terms

    This postcard depicts Australian swimming sensation Annette Kellerman. It is titled 'Miss Annette Kellerman / Champion lady swimmer and diver of the world'.
    SignificanceThis postcard depicts one of Australia's most enduring swimming stars - Annette Kellerman. Publicity photographs of her appeared on various ephemera of the day and reflect the widespread celebrity that she enjoyed throughout the 1910s and 1920s.
    HistoryBorn in 1886 in Darlinghurst, Sydney, Annette Kellerman spent part of her childhood in Marrickville. She learned to swim at Cavill's Baths in Lavender Bay and became a New South Wales swimming champion in 1902. She left for England at age 18 to help her struggling family. She competed as a long distance swimmer, attempting to swim the English Channel three times, and swam against men in the annual race along the Seine coming equal third.

    Kellerman established herself as a performer through exotic swimming and diving demonstrations. By 1906 she had moved to vaudeville theatre in America as 'Australia's Mermaid' and quickly progressed to the big screen. Kellerman enjoyed tremendous success as a silent movie star in mythological underwater films, including 'Siren of the Sea' (1911), 'Neptune's Daughter' (1914), 'Daughter of the Gods' (1916), 'Queen of the Sea' (1918), 'What Women Love' (1920) and 'Venus of the South Seas' (1924). Kellerman played both mythic mermaid and independent action heroine, unusual for the times. With the advent of talking feature film, Kellerman returned to the stage in vaudeville revues.

    In 1907 Kellerman, appeared on a Boston beach in a revealing cut-down man's bathing suit where she was allegedly arrested for indecent exposure. Kellerman's arrest came in an era when clingy woollen swimsuits were considered risqué and even pornographic, especially in Europe and America.

    Her move to vaudeville theatre in America, titillating underwater films and trademark figure-hugging suits pushed the boundaries of twentieth century propriety and turned her into an international star. Kellerman was dubbed 'the perfect woman’ and compared to classical ideals of beauty such as the Venus de Milo, by Dr Dudley Sargent, director of a Harvard University gymnasium. She championed women's health, beauty and fitness by giving lectures and writing books such as 'Physical Beauty and How to keep It' (1918) and the partly autobiographic text 'How to Swim' (1918). Kellerman also taught physical fitness through correspondence courses.

    Such was Kellerman's fame and theatrical appeal that in 1952 a film was made of her life, 'Million Dollar Mermaid', starring Esther Williams. Annette Kellerman died in 1975 in Queensland.
    Additional Titles


    Web title: Postcard depicting Annette Kellerman

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