Women in Pilates History

We couldn’t let March end without a nod to some important women in Pilates, as March is also Women’s History month. Check out our new section below highlighting two important women, that without, Pilates would not be what it is today.

Clara, Joseph Pilates’ wife

Clara met Joe on a boat on their way to New York City in the 1926. When Joseph Pilates opened his “Contrology” studio in New York, Clara became the administrative secretary and assistant director of the studio.

Not only did she oversee the studio’s correspondence and finances, she also taught Pilates. She had the patience that Joseph did not, and is often referred to as the ‘true teacher of Pilates’. Although Joe was the creator, Clara was the one to vocalize and customize to meet the client’s needs. Clara spent most of the time with the clients; explaining what Joe wanted, maybe because English was not his first language, or he was a little tough.

After Joe died at age 83 in 1967, Clara continued to run the studio until her retirement in 1970. She brought in a partner who first helped manage the studio, and later brought in investors to keep the studio up and running. The original Pilates Studio is still operating today. Clara continued to teach Pilates until her death in 1977 at the age of 95.

Mary Pilates LeRiche

Mary was born in 1920 and she is the only living Pilates family member to have taught in the original NY studio. She is pictured in many of the iconic photos of that studio (like the one we have hanging in the restroom at Pilates by the Bay, both Clara and Mary are in that picture). The niece of Joseph Pilates was also an apprentice under him. Her father, Fred Pilates, was a carpenter who helped design and manufacture the Pilates equipment.

Mary taught and trained at the studio in New York and also was involved in making the apparatus. Mary has been teaching Pilates in South Florida since the 1960’s and continued to flawless execute the exercises well into her 80’s. Strong women are certainly behind making Pilates the practice that it is today!