Annette Kellerman

From Openwaterpedia
Annette Kellerman, inductee (Honor Swimmer) in the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame
Annette Kellerman is a member of the Australian Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame Class of 2020
PR photo circa 1919 of Annette Kellerman showing her line of Annette Kellermans one-piece swimwear of the early 20th century, courtesy of the George Grantham Bain Collection, Library of Congress
Annette Kellerman
Annette Kellerman, movie still
Annette Kellerman, movie still

Annette Marie Sarah Kellermann (6 July 1886 – 6 November 1965) from Australia was inducted as an Honour Swimmer in the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame in the Class of 1965 and an inductee in the International Swimming Hall of Fame in the Class of 1964.

Open Water Swimming Career

  • Kellerman was the first woman to attempt to swim the English Channel in 1905, but failed on three different occasions. But she found her way to success in other venues and other times.
  • She won numerous swimming titles in the Thames, the Danube River, Boston Harbor and the Seine River between 1905 and 1906.
  • She was one of the pivotal figures in the history of swimming because she was instrumental in the evolution of women's swimwear and famous for her advocacy of the right of women to wear a one-piece bathing suit, which was a controversial issue in the early 20th century.
  • Ultimately, her life story inspired the MGM classic movie Million Dollar Mermaid starring her heir apparent Esther Williams.

Vintage Synchronized Swimming Videos

Kellerman in Venus of the South Seas

International Swimming Hall of Fame Induction Memorial

FOR THE RECORD: Swim Champion of New South Wales: (100 yd freestyle); Set many records in distance swimming in rivers of Australia and Europe; became professional high diver and stunt swimming artiste (fore-runner to synchronized swimming); Starred in motion pictures as a "moving picture mermaid".

Annette Kellerman did more to popularize swimming (especially for women) than any other person in the early years. A childhood cripple, she swam her way out of steel braces and into good health. "Only a cripple can understand the intense joy that I experienced when little by little I found that my legs were growing stronger and taking on the normal shape and powers with which the legs of other youngsters were endowed."

"But for swimming, I might have been hobbling about on crutches today (1918) instead of skating, dancing, and indulging in 25 mile constitutionals in addition to making my regular livelihood as a moving picture mermaid, or flirting with 'Toto, the funny fish,' through the walls of the glass tank at the New York Hippodrome."

Annette Kellerman starred in motion pictures such as the "Diving Venus", "Queen of the Mermaids", "A Daughter of the Gods", Siren of the Sea, and "Neptune's Daughter." She crisscrossed the U.S. and circled the world in the famed "Annette Kellerman black one-piece suit" which made swimming attractive to men and liberated for women. She performed stunts and dives which mad her first among the fore-runners to synchronized swimming and women's high diving.

She won her first title as Swim Champion of New South Wales (100 yds. in 1:18) then set a women's world record for the mile with 42:29, a time which she subsequently lowered to 28 minutes. Her first distance swim was 10 miles in Australia's Yarrow River. She set records in the Yarrow at 2 1/2 miles (46 min.) and 5 miles (downriver) at an average of 21 minutes a mile. Her first public diving display was from the 50-ft. high board at Cavills Bath in Sydney. She began her pro-career giving two shows a day in the 60 ft. glass tank with fish at the Melbourne Exhibition Aquarium.

Miss Kellerman went next to England for "more people, more theaters and more money to be earned by professional swimmers." To attract attention, she swam through London along the Thames from Putney Bridge to Blackwall in 4 1/2 hours with huge crowds watching from the banks. In preparing to be the first woman to swim the English Channel (no one had made it since the one and only crossing by Capt. Matthew Webb, over 40 years before), Kellerman swam daily from town to town along the English Coast -- 4 1/2 miles Dover to St. Margaret's Bay, 11 miles Dover to Deal, 11 miles Deal to Ramsgate, 10 miles Ramsgate to Margate and finally 24 miles Dover to Ramsgate. Annette Kellerman's Channel swims never quite made it, but her 10 1/2 hours, three quarters of the way across was a women's record that held many years. On her first Channel attempt she was violently seasick and lasted 6 4/4 hours. Among the seven on this attempt was Burgess, who later became the second ever to make the Channel, 46 years after Capt. Webb's famous swim.

After her ill-fated Channel swims, Annette Kellerman tried and finished third in a 6-mile "Seine Swim through Paris" in September 1902 beating many top men as she. This swim drew half a million spectators, the largest live audience ever to see a swim race. Annette challenged and beat Baroness Isa Cescu, the best known Austrian swimmer in a 22 mile Danube River Race from Tuln to Vienna.

Having conquered all the swimmers and most of the rivers of Australia and Europe, Annette came to the U.S. where she specialized in water feats as a high diving and stunt swimming artiste. After long runs in Chicago and Boston, she was signed by the Keith Circuit doing her "first time ever" diving act on stage every day for 2 years (14 shows a week). When imitators threatened her $1,250 a week contract, Annette moved on to Hollywood, where her first movie, "Neptune's Daughter", cost $45,000 to make and grossed $1,000,000. In each of her succeeding movies the public expected new stunts. After 5 movies, Annette returned to the New York Hippodrome with "the biggest mermaid spectacle ever seen live or on the stage." Forty years later Annette Kellerman was back in the film -- when her life was portrayed by Esther Williams.


In 1908, after a study of 4,000 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 Milo.


Australian Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame Class of 2020 Honourees

She is a member of the inaugural class of Australian Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame honourees who were inducted on August 2020.

External links