“My early physical misfortune has turned out to be the greatest blessing that could have come to me. Without it I should have missed all the grim struggle upward and the reward that waited at the end of it all.”
Annette Kellermann was just six years old when she developed weakness in her legs, which required her to wear painful steel braces. To further help recovery, her parents enrolled Annette in swim classes.
As a teen, her legs recovered, and she became a champion swimmer, a record holder in the 100 yard and mile races in her native Australia.
She then got into long-distance swimming, swimming over 13 miles of the Thames river in under 4 hours. And she made three attempts to swim the English channel, never completing the entire journey, but once staying in the water for more than 10 hours.
But more than just swimming, she became famous for advocating for women’s rights.
“I can’t swim wearing more stuff than you hang on a clothesline,” she once said about swimming.
In a time when women were expected to wear dress and pantaloons to swim, she wore a one-piece suit. Such behavior led to her arrest on Revere Beach in Massachusetts in 1907 for indecency. But doing so also helped change the social norms. Her one-piece suit, known as the Annette Kellermann, became a popular swimsuit for women.
“Annette Kellermann, the first woman to wear a one-piece swimsuit” source: How to Swim by Annette Kellermann