Annette Kellerman: Wikis


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Annette Kellerman

Annette Kellerman, Diving Venus, 1920
Born 6 July 1887(1887-07-06)
Marrickville, New South Wales, Australia
Died 5 November 1975 (aged 88)
Southport, Queensland, Australia
Resting place Great Barrier Reef
Nationality Australian
Other names Annette Marie Sarah Kellerman
Education Mentone Girls' Grammar School
Occupation Swimmer, Actress, Writer
Known for Swimmer, Actress, Writer, Inventor of Synchronised Swimming, Pioneer of women's swimwear
Religious beliefs Roman Catholic
Spouse(s) James Raymond Louis Sullivan (m. 1912–1975) «start: (1912)–end+1: (1976)»"Marriage: James Raymond Louis Sullivan to Annette Kellerman" Location: (linkback:

Annette Kellerman (6 July 1887, Marrickville, New South Wales, Australia – 5 November 1975, Southport, Queensland, Australia) was an Australian professional swimmer, vaudeville and film star, writer, and advocate for the change of women's swimwear.

She is often credited for inventing 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.


Early life

Annette Kellerman, early 1900s

Annette Marie Sarah Kellerman was born in Marrickville, New South Wales, Australia on 6 July 1887, to Australian-born violinist Frederick William Kellerman and his French wife, Alice Ellen Charbonnet, a pianist and music teacher.[1]

At the age of 6, a weakness in Kellerman's legs necessitated the wearing of painful steel braces to strengthen them. In order to further overcome her disability, her parents enrolled her in swim classes at Cavill's baths in Sydney. By the age of 13, her legs were practically normal, and by 15, she had mastered all the swimming strokes and won her first race. At this time she was also giving diving displays.[1]

In 1902, Kellerman decided to take her swimming seriously and subsequently 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 respectively. In that same year, her parents decided to move to Melbourne, and she was enrolled at Mentone Girls' Grammar School where her mother had accepted a music teaching position.[1]

During her time at school, Kellerman gave exhibitions of swimming and diving at the main Melbourne baths, performed a mermaid act at Princes Court entertainment centre and did two shows a day swimming with fish in a glass tank at the Exhibition Aquarium. In June-July 1903 she performed in the Coogee scene of Bland Holt's spectacular, The Breaking of the Drought, at the Theatre Royal.[1]

Swimming career

Annette in her famous one-piece bathing suit

On 24 August 1905, aged 18, Annette Kellerman became the first woman to attempt to swim the English Channel. After three unsuccessful swims she declared "I had the endurance but not the brute strength".

Kellerman was famous for her advocacy of the right of women to wear a one-piece bathing suit, which was a controversial topic in the early 20th century.

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 a Boston beach for indecency - she was wearing one of her fitted one-piece costumes.[2]

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. In 1908, after conducting 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 Milo.


Kellerman married her American-born manager, James Raymond Louis Sullivan, on or around 26 November 1912 at Danbury, Connecticut.[1]

Movie career

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. As with many of Annette Kellerman's films, this is now considered a lost film and no copies are known to exist.

The majority of Kellerman's films were aquatic adventure in theme. 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 1911 film The Mermaid. With this film, she became the first actress to wear a swimmable mermaid costume on film, paving the way for future screen sirens such as Glynis Johns, Esther Williams and Daryl Hannah. 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 her 1918 film Queen of the Sea.

Kellerman appeared in one of the last films made in Prizma Color, Venus of the South Seas (1924), a U. S./New Zealand co-production where one reel of the 55-minute film was in color and underwater. Venus of the South Seas, restored by the Library of Congress in 2004, is the only feature film starring Annette Kellerman known to exist in its complete form.


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.

Later life

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.[1] 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, Annette Kellerman died in hospital at Southport, Queensland, Australia on 5 November 1975, aged 88 and was cremated with Roman Catholic rites. Her remains were scattered in the Great Barrier Reef. She had no children.[1]


Kellerman's large collection of costumes and theatrical memorabilia was bequeathed to the Sydney Opera House.[1] 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). Her name is on a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, on Hollywood Boulevard.

An award winning Australian documentary called The Original Mermaid about Annette Kellerman was produced in 2002.


Annette photographed in USA 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)

As herself

  • 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)

Archive Footage

  • The Love Goddesses (1965)
  • The Original Mermaid (2002)


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Walsh, G. P (1983). "Kellerman, Annette Marie Sarah (1886 - 1975)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Melbourne University Press. Retrieved 2007-06-15.  
  2. ^ "Her Story. Annette Kellerman". The Dawn, Issue 54. Retrieved 2006-02-26.  


External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

I come from a nation of swimmers but no one remembers me now, yet I was once one of the most famous women in all the world. They called me the 'Diving Venus', the perfect woman, a daughter of the gods.

Annette Kellerman (6 July 18875 November 1975) was an Australian professional swimmer, vaudeville and film star, writer, and advocate for the change of women's swimwear. Annette became the first major actress to do a complete nude scene in a movie and was known as the Perfect Woman because of the similarity of her physical attributes to the Venus de Milo.




  • There are two kinds of bathing suits, those that are adapted for use in the water, and those that are unfit for use except on dry land. If you are going to swim, wear a water bathing suit. But if you are merely going to play on the beach and pose for your camera friends, you may safely wear the dry land variety.
    • From "How to Swim" by Annette Kellerman, 1918


  • And why do I believe in swimming? To put it briefly, swimming is a pleasure and a benefit, a clean, cool, beautiful cheap thing we all from cats to kings can enjoy. The man who has not given himself completely to the sun and wind and cold sting of the waves will never know all meanings of life. Swimming is more deeply woven into the fabric of man than any other form of motion. Athletics have scarcely begun to have a history, scientists tell us that walking is comparatively modern, but man swam before he was a man and he will swim till there is no more sea.
    • In her own words
  • I come from a nation of swimmers but no one remembers me now, yet I was once one of the most famous women in all the world. They called me the 'Diving Venus', the perfect woman, a daughter of the gods.
    • The words of Annette Kellerman commenting on her fame later in life.
  • I had the endurance but not the brute strength.
    • Spoken in 1905 after failing to be the first woman to swim the English Channel
  • I want to swim. And I can't swim wearing more stuff than you hang on a clothes line.
    • Spoken during a court hearing after she was arrested on a Boston beach for indecency in wearing a one-piece swimsuit.
  • I was very sensitive about my poor little deformed legs and I was permitted to wear long dresses to hide them.
    • Speaking about her childhood illness of rickets.
  • Though my swimming has earned me a goodly fortune I am still looking for my chest of gold in a cool dripping sea cave, though a professional mermaid for the movies, I still wait to see my first real one sitting on a damp grey rock combing her long green hair.
    • Spoken just before her death.
  • Swimming for women is more than physical, it can engender self-confidence, and in the art and science of swimming, a kind of equality, even superiority to that of men. My chief pride and pleasure has been the knowledge that my work has stimulated an interest in swimming as a woman’s sport.
    • Kellerman in 1915
  • There is nothing more liberating than swimming. Swimming out beyond the surf line is freedom itself. All life's shackles are washed away with the waves.

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