I grew up watching Paige Palmer with my mom and sister on TV and can still remember sitting on my mom’s feet, at Paige’s urging, so my mother could reach her toes as she exercised. Paige was smart, worldly, confident, and invented her own way to be a feminist (no bra burning or hairy legs were involved)!
For those of you who have never heard of Paige Palmer, she was known as “The First Lady of Fitness” and was the star of a daily one-hour fitness show on WEWS in Cleveland, Ohio, where she demonstrated jumping jacks and scissor kicks in black fishnet stockings and pumps! She was responsible for helping most of the stay-at-home moms in Northeast Ohio build their muscles and their confidence. Remember, this was before Jane Fonda, workout videos, and going to the gym for step class.
Here are just a few of the cool things that Paige accomplished:
- At age 16, without her parents’ knowledge, she became an entrepreneur when she rented a house in Akron and started the School of Expression to teach dance and invited her friends to join along in teaching other subjects they knew. Her parents found out when she invited them to the open house. The School of Expression was a huge success!
- When she was 18, she was the physical education director at a private Akron girl’s school.
- She graduated from the University of Akron with a degree in physical fitness (what she loved) and also majored in home economics (because that was what was acceptable for women at the time).
- She parlayed her accomplishments into a highly successful television career in the 1940’s – and for over 25 years, she educated women about the benefits of exercise, nutrition, and fashion.
- She used her position to help women break down traditional barriers at the time by urging them to turn their hobbies into businesses, so they would not be totally dependent on their husbands.
- Taboo topics were not off the table for her as she educated women about the importance of yearly Pap tests.
- She patented exercise equipment and created her own fashion label.
In essence, she was an incredible role model for women and one who lived a full life until she passed away this past November at the age of 93.