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As California's male and female population today fights for the right to swim nude publicly, and has recently lost the battle when a judge decided that California State Parks employees could issue tickets to beach visitors if they wore no clothes--Victorian era ethics have prevailed for over 100 years--but not without some similar fights.
 

In the history of swimming, it appears that Victorian era bathing suits designed to hide the woman's shape was an invention of late. Historical depictions going all the way back over 2,000 years to the time of ancient Rome reveal  clothing that appears somewhat like the mid-60's modest bikini.  Throughout the centuries, depictions of women swimming nude are common.
 

When we look at the earliest photos that still exist from the late 1800's to early 1900's,  swimsuit fashion was amazingly cumbersome for women.  Clothes were long, covered most body parts, were made so that you couldn't see through them, and even contained weights on the skirts so that they would not float up in the water. 

 

A champion for women's rights, Australian born Annette Kellerman (who has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame) came to America as a professional swimmer, and performer. She wore a controversial one piece, form-fitting body suit, which resulted in her arrest on a Boston beach in 1907. After adding arm coverage and longer leg coverage to the one piece outfit, she seemed to get by without being arrested again. But she did not like the laws and did all she could to help change them.
 

As an athlete and swimmer, the fashionable and acceptable swimwear of the day was not practical for this performer who appeared in tanks for the public to watch.  She even created a synchronized swim show portrayed in the 1952 movie with Ester Williams, Million Dollar Mermaid.
 

As the first woman to do a nude scene in a movie in 1916, Kellerman wasn't afraid of controversy. She helped pave the way for women to wear bikinis today, though nudity has not been re-established as a legal and acceptable practice for swimming  in the U.S.

 

Kellerman in her later years actually owned a health food store in Long Beach. The lifelong vegetarian and career swimmer didn't let things get in the way of her passion for the water, swimming, performing and living a healthy lifestyle.

 

America and other countries should not pat themselves on the back for their modern thinking or practices. There's much about our society that clings to Victorian era ethics and thinking, even as we embark on paths that may lead to travel to other planets and eventually space tourism. Like the dated Star Trek bouffant hair-dos and clothes, we've come a long way baby, but we have a great distance to go. And what we eventually may come to realize is an acceptance of ourselves as humans who are proud, beautiful creatures.


 

 


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