Mary Pilates is the only living Pilates to have actually taught in the New York studio. She is the niece of Joseph Pilates and she was an apprentice under him for several years before returning to her father's Pilates studio in St Louis, Missouri. Her father, Fred Pilates, was a carpenter and he designed and manufactured most of the original equipment. Mary taught and trained at the studio and was also involved in the manufacture and design of the equipment. In this famous photo taken in 1942 at the New York Studio, Mary is standing in the centre of the photo with Joseph.
Mary is the executive director of Original Pilates® instruction at Parkland Pilates, Florida which she owns and runs with Francene Perel. Francene recounts how Mary donated to her many historical items which are displayed in the Mary Pilates Museum Collection,
"You can't imagine the feeling I had when Mary Pilates walked into my studio holding "the ORIGINAL and most famous" of all Pilates pictures, where she is standing next to Joe, with Clara to her right (photo is shown above). It was wrapped in cling wrap and in pieces. I had it restored. I was at her home and she showed me a box of history, such as an ad in TV Guide, in the 1950's for Joe's studio,I held the model her father Fred made of the first reformer which he then went on to build. I interviewed her and still have the recordings where she talks about what it was like in the original studio, where she taught beside him. She certified me and my studio Original Pilates®. I helped her obtain the U.S. trademark for this."
According to Bruce Thomson, Mary believes that the correct pronunciation of Pilates is "Pi-LOTTS" and with her inherited knowledge and birthright who would argue?
This article was wriitten with many thanks to Francene Perel.
Photos are shown with kind permission from Francene Perel www.parklandpilates.com