Australia’s growing urban population was enjoying an increase in both disposable income and free time in 1913. People found they could afford to engage in sport and leisure activities, as participants and spectators.
Sporting prowess was an essential part of Australian identity. The success of Australian athletes at home and abroad, in sports including cricket, boxing and tennis, was seen as proof of the nation’s potential. Increased numbers of spectators also brought more money into sport. Elite sport was on its way to becoming a form of mass entertainment and, not surprisingly, athletes were keen to share in the profits.
By 1913 swimming was fast becoming integral to Australian life. The sport was considered health-giving and a suitable way to maintain the ‘body beautiful’. Beaches attracted leisure seekers who enjoyed frolicking in the surf. Seemingly innocuous activities like going to the beach or a dance reveal changing attitudes towards morality and modernity.
The wearing of ‘revealing’ clothing and less constrained physical and social contact between the sexes were only recently socially acceptable – but not to all.