Annette Marie Sarah Kellermann (Kellerman) was born on 6 July 1886 in Marrickville, New South Wales, Australia, to musician parents Frederick Kellermann and Alice Charbonnet.
Annette started swimming as a child to improve her strength after suffering from infantile paralysis and first came to public notice with long distance swims in Melbourne. Her interest in long distance swimming continued from the early 1900s and included attempts to cross the English Channel.
Annette wore what was considered male swimwear during her 1907 three mile swim to the Boston light in America and her choice of swimwear resulted in a court case. Her pioneering use of a one-piece bathing suit designed for women endured until the 1960s.
Annette was a professional swimmer, vaudeville star, film actress and business owner. She performed water ballets in tanks on stage and introduced synchronised swimming to Hollywood movies.
She was also the author of two books How to swim published in 1918, Physical Beauty, How to keep it published in 1919 and Fairy Tales of the South Seas published in 1926.
In response to her fame and popularity, a movie of Annette Kellermann’s life was produced in 1952 with Esther Williams playing the lead role of the well-known Australian.
Annette was the first female swimmer to achieve world fame and recognition in the International Swimming Hall of Fame in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
She played her last show at the age of 72 and was filmed swimming in the Chevron Pool at Surfers Paradise when she was in her 80s.
She retired to the Gold Coast in 1956 and celebrated her diamond wedding anniversary with her husband Jim Richardson in 1971. She died in Southport on 6 November 1975.
In 1977 a park was named in her honour fronting the Gold Coast Highway between Sportsman Avenue and Markeri Street, Mermaid Beach.
Sources of information and further reading
- Gibson, Emily and Firth, Barbara. The Original Million Dollar Mermaid, the Annette Kellermann story. Crows Nest, N.S.W. : Allen & Unwin, 2005.
- Hubbard, Murray. The Gold Coast Sun, 9 Apr 2008, p. 33.
- “Looking at the life of a mermaid.” The Gold Coast Bulletin, 19 Apr 2004.