First Australian woman to star in US silent films

The list of Annette Kellerman's achievements is extraordinary: champion swimmer and diver, vaudeville performer, international silent film star, stunt performer and entrepreneur.

Born in Sydney in 1886, she started out as a champion swimmer and diver – holding all the world records for women's swimming at just 16 years old and performing marathon swims.

Moving to England in 1905, she embarked on a vaudeville career and defied convention by wearing a one-piece swimming costume, starting a worldwide trend.

Her vaudeville shows became legendary and showcased her skills in underwater ballet, wire walking, dance and music. Ahead of her time, Kellerman even included a drag act.

She moved to New York and starred in blockbuster silent films. Her physical prowess meant she performed all of her own stunt dives and underwater tricks.

We pay homage to the fearless Annette Kellerman in this curated collection which includes glimpses of her surviving film roles, rare footage of her performing underwater ballet, plus photographs, newsreels and an oral history interview.

This collection complements our Annette Kellerman online exhibition.