You may think that Hollywood actress Jane Fonda and her spandex-clad 1980s VHS workouts were the catalyst for women embracing the world of fitness. But several decades earlier, another blonde icon helped to change the perception that exercise was nothing but a man’s game. And her name was Betty Brosmer.
Back in the post-war period, it was rare for women to hit the gym at all. In fact, one study revealed that housework was the prime source of exercise for most ladies of the era. Housewives in 1953 reportedly shed more than 1,000 calories daily while cleaning their homes from top to bottom.
Those women who did make it to a gym or health club would’ve been confronted with a very different sight to today. The most popular workouts were hula-hooping and calisthenics. And for the majority of the decade, women who worked out did so in cotton leotards. The more familiar spandex was only introduced at the very end of the 1950s.
Something of a tomboy
Though she wouldn’t have been exposed to its ideals very often, Betty still developed an interest in fitness from a young age. Described as “something of a tomboy” while growing up, she was inspired to take up several different sports by her encouraging father. And before Betty had even made it into her teenage years, she’d already become a big fan of bodybuilding.
Sears and Roebuck
And Betty was also very much an early starter when it came to modeling. Following a photo-shoot for Sears & Roebuck at the age of just 13, she was scouted by Earl Moran and Alberto Vargas, two of the era’s most prominent glamor photographers. Within a couple of years Betty had relocated to the Big Apple to fully pursue her modeling ambitions.