Gertrude Caroline Ederle (October 23, 1905 – November 30, 2003) was an United States swimming.
In 1926, she became the first woman to swim the English Channel.
Gertrude was the daughter of a Germans immigrant who ran a delicatessen on Amsterdam Avenue in Manhattan. Known as Trudy as a youth, her father gave her permission to bob her hair if she expressed an interest in swimming.
She trained at the Women's Swimming Association which produced such competitors as Eleanor Holm and Esther Williams. She joined the club when she was only thirteen, five years prior to making her successful Channel swim. From this time Gertrude began to break and establish more amateur records than any woman in the world.
At the 1924 Summer Olympics, she won a gold medal as a part of the US 400-meter freestyle swimming relay team and bronze medals for finishing third in the 100-meter and 400-meter freestyle races.
In 1925, Ederle swam a 21-mile crossing across Lower New York Bay, from Manhattan to Sandy Hook (New Jersey), taking over seven hours. Later that year, she made her first attempt at swimming the Channel, but she was disqualified when a trainer grabbed her after she began coughing.
Her famous cross-channel swim began at Cap Gris-Nez in France at 07:05 on the morning of August 6, 1926. Fourteen hours and 30 minutes later, she came ashore at England. Her record stood until Florence Chadwick swam the channel in 1950 in 13 hours and 20 minutes.
Gertrude possessed a contract from both the New York Daily News and Chicago Tribune when she attempted the Channel swim a second time. The money she received paid her expenses and provided her with a modest salary. It also gave her a bonus in exchange for exclusive rights to her personal story. The Daily News and the Chicago Tribune got the jump on every other newspaper in United States.
The people alongside Ederle aboard the boat on August 6, 1926 included Westbrook Pegler and his wife, Julie Harpman. Westbrook was a Tribune writer who "ghosted" the swimmer's account of her experience.
During her twelfth hour at sea, Gertrude had become so bothered by unfavorable winds that her trainer, Thomas Burgess, called to her Gertie, you must come out! The exhausted swimmer lifted her head from the choppy waters and replied, What for?
Only five men had been able to swim the English Channel before Gertrude. The best time had been 16 hours, 33 minutes by an Argentine named Enrique Tiraboschi. Ederle walked up the beach at Dover, England after 14 hours and 31 minutes. The first person to greet her was a United Kingdom immigration officer who requested a passport from "the bleary-eyed, waterlogged teenager."
When Ederle returned home, she was greeted with a ticker-tape parade in New York City. She went on to play herself in a movie ( Swim Girl, Swim) and tour the vaudeville circuit, including Billy Rose's Aquacade. She met President Calvin Coolidge and had a song and a dance step named for her.
She was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 1965.
Ederle had poor hearing since childhood due to measles, and by the 1940s she was completely deaf. She died on November 30, 2003 in Wyckoff, New Jersey, at the age of 98 and was interred in the Woodlawn Cemetery in The Bronx, New York.
Ederle in 1926
Lamparski Richard, Whatever Became Of...?, Ace Books, 1967, pp. 72-73.
Courtesy of: http://www.wikipedia.org/