Annette Kellerman Promotes Women’s Right to Wear Fitted Bathing Suits

Shooting people as subjects in any era is a powerful representation of the social, political and cultural ethos of the relevant times. As time moves on, it is often difficult to retain authentic representations of each era, save for photographs.

Among the world’s greatest movements that have been documented in academia and photography alike, the feminist movement and the women’s liberation movement is most engaging and intriguing. In the many achievements and gains, and setbacks alike, the movement and what it stood for has been well informed through photography of the relevant times, with both, willing subjects and photographers, who deemed it fitting to represent their age with the documentary evidence using a camera.


Photo Credits: Wikipedia

Of this repertoire, the image of women in fitted bathing suits in 1907, shot by Australian professional swimmer Annette Kellerman, is exceptionally special. At a time when the world was just waking out of the 19th Century, and such things as women’s freedom seemed both unheard of, and unacceptable, there was a revolutionary movement brewing, as women began to discard the conventional, and looked at revolutionary approaches to their dressing. As sports became inclusive and women were also being made a part of competitive sport, there was a broadened outlook towards the outfit of women – although only few shared this broadened way of thinking.

Annette happened to be one of them. In documenting the new age phenomenon that was far ahead of its times – where women wore what they wanted and did not deem it fit to be questioned for it. As swimming became an inclusive sport, women wore fitted bathing suits, and Annette captured the milestone in history. Sadly, she was arrested for indecency.


Photo Credits: Wikipedia

Annette’s photograph remains an important representation of the continued fight that women seem to be on. To wear what one wants, and to recognise that freedom without imposing the burden of indecency or being called “inappropriate”, or the other extremity – of asserting that women who dress a certain way invariably “ask” to be treated with rape or other forms of violence – remains a big challenge in contemporary times. Annette’s capture of a time where women questioned the norm, and where women challenged perceptions remains a very important reminder of the need for women to fight the good fight.

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