‘There are two kinds of bathing suits, those that are adapted for use in the water, and those that are unfit for use except on dry land. If you are going to swim, wear a water bathing suit. But if you are merely going to play on the beach and pose for your camera friends, you may safely wear the dry land variety.’
- How to Swim (1918), pp. 47–48 Annette Kellerman
Here are some of my great aunts and uncles, ‘posing for their camera friends’ in New York in 1919.
In those days, when seaside bathing was becoming fashionable, the thing to do apparently was to sit at the edge of the beach and let the breaking waves wash over you. The activity was considered daring as the waves would sweep the ladies bathing dresses upwards, revealing their legs. Here my great aunts seem to be doing just that.
Annette Kellerman was the first woman to attempt to swim the channel. She also invented the one piece bathing costume for women (the wearing of which she was arrested for on the beach in 1908 in Massachusetts; although the case was dismissed because Kellermann argued that cumbersome costumes prevented women from learning to swim).
She published a book ‘How to swim’ in 1918.
To master the art of swimming is a duty which you owe not only to yourself but to others. By being able to swim, you lessen the chance of losing your own life, and also cease to become a source of danger to others in case of accident. Now if you will add to your swimming the accomplishment of life saving, you will become a positive element of safety to others.
The best thing that a non-swimmer can do to decrease his risk of drowning in case the boat upsets is learn to swim. Having neglected this precaution, the next best thing will be to have the presence of mind not to lose his sanity while he is drowning.
She goes on to qualify this last remark by explaining that
The non-swimmer is usually drowned by his own efforts. What he should do is remain perfectly quiet and float.
This advice to the drowning man is good advice; the only drawback is that when one is drowning one is not in the mood to appreciate its value.