In the summer of 1907, an Australian woman by the name of Annette Kellerman made a startling appearance on the sands of Revere Beach just north of Boston. Amid the female sunseekers wearing the standard bathing costume of the time—blouse; skirt; stockings; swimming shoes—she strolled toward the water in a short-sleeved unitard cut to two inches above the knee.
For this stunt, Kellerman was promptly arrested for indecent exposure. “She was denounced as a wanton,” reported the New York Times, “and dark prophecies were made as to the future of America.”
The incident, which ended with a judge dismissing Kellerman on the proviso she wear a robe when walking to the water, was just the kind of publicity Kellerman needed on her quest to bring recreational swimming to American women.
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