Kellerman the entrepreneur

Kellerman the entrepreneur
Michael Cordell
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'I want to help all women to become as perfect in every way, as healthy, as vigorous as beautiful and happy as Nature meant them to be.' - Annette Kellerman, The Body Beautiful (1909).

This is an extract from the documentary The Original Mermaid (Michael Cordell, Australia, 2002), featuring an interview with Kellerman biographer Barbara Firth.

An early health entrepreneur, Kellerman was passionate about the benefits of physical exercise – particularly swimming – and eating a healthy vegetarian diet.

Tara Morice's voice-over in the clip quotes Kellerman: 

'I was weak and deformed in childhood but I believed in nature's power to remedy unnatural physical conditions. If I am now, as they say, "the most perfectly developed woman in the world", I owe it to this fact. What I have done for myself I can also do for you.'

Kellerman wrote a number of publications for women including The Body Beautiful (1909), How To Swim (1918) and The Physical Beauty, How to Keep It (1918). Kellerman later claimed that 40,000 women had benefited from her mail-order health, fitness and beauty course, with an additional 500,000 women hearing her health lectures in five different languages as part of her vaudeville act.

Advertisements for her private tuition promised, 'Devote but 15 minutes daily to my system and you can weigh what Nature intended'. Kellerman encouraged women to engage in physical exercise, drive motor vehicles and free themselves from restrictive garments like corsets.

Notes by Beth Taylor