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1930s & Earlier / Annette Kellermann - First Swimsuit Model
Australia's Annette Kellermann had weak legs as a child, so her doctor prescribed a rigorous regimen of swimming exercises to strengthen them. The advice worked wonders. By age 13 in 1900, she was a local swimming champion, having mastered numerous strokes. Kellermann found the pantaloon-type female bathing suits of the era ridiculously restrictive, however, so she designed her own form-fitting one-piece swimsuits (as pictured here). They were both revolutionary and scandalous. In 1908 a Harvard doctor declared Kellerman to be "the perfect woman". Her fame opened up many doors to her. The shapely Kellermann became a silent movie star; in 1916's A Daughter of the Gods she became the first actress in American movie history to do a nude scene. (Her long hair covered most of her body, however.) She also continued advocating the healthful benefits of swimming in books and magazines. She even penned children's books. Kellermann is also credited with being a pioneer in the field of synchronized swimming. She died in 1975 at the age of 88.