HerStory Archive

KELLERMAN, Annette Marie Sarah

Also known as: Diving Venus, Australian Mermaid

Born: 6/7/1887

Died: 6/11/1975

Special Achievements:

Annette Kellerman was a swimming champion, a pioneer of physical culture, a vaudeville artiste and a film star.

Childhood polio had made her take up swimming to strengthen her legs.  While still in her teens she was reputed to have held every major ladies swimming record. She even made a brave assault on the English Channel in 1905, being one of the first women to attempt to swim the Channel.

The first Australian to have a lead in a role in a Hollywood film (including a nude scene), Annette Kellerman specialized in adventure fantasy films which exploited her spectacular vaudeville stage acts.  On stage, she swam in a glass tank dressed as a mermaid, miming stories in underwater ballet routines.  Such feats were the beginnings of synchronised swimming.

Annette Kellerman was an advocate of physical fitness, and her stage acts included comedy lecturettes and exercises that could be done with housework.

She is remembered for helping to make women's swimming both popular and socially acceptable, and for freeing women from the constraints of neck to knee bathing costumes.

Additional Information:

1902 - Won the ladies' 100 yards and mile championships of New South Wales in the record times of 1 minute, 22 seconds and 33 minutes, 49 seconds. 
1903 - Performed sensational high dives in the Coogee scene of Bland Holt's spectacular, The Breaking of the Drought, Melbourne Theatre Royal.
after 1907 - Kellermann helped popularize the sport of synchronised swimming after her performance of the first water ballet in a glass tank, New York Hippodrome.
1918 - Author of How to Swim.
1919 - Author of Physical Beauty:  How to Keep It.
1924 - Appeared in Venus of the South Seas, the only feature film starring Kellermann known to exist in its complete form.
1926 – Author of Fairy Tales of the South Seas.
Author of My Story, an unpublished autobiography.


Resources

  • Image - Annette Kellerman 1907

    This file has been extracted from another file: Annette Kellerman and C.M. Daniels. 1907. ggbain.00678.jpg

    Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. Forms part of: George Grantham Bain Collection (Library of Congress).


  • Image - Kellerman, Annette: Full length profile shot, standing on a rock by the sea, wearing a bathing costume and head scarf, and holding an open parasol to one side

    Image courtesy of the National Film and Sound Archive


  • Image - Pictorial post card, Miss Annette Kellermann, Champion Lady Swimmer and Diver of the World

    State Library of New South Wales collection, accessed on Wikimedia Commons