#InspirationalWomenWednesday, January 9, 2019
“Wherever you go, go with all your heart.” -Confucius
I am so excited to introduce to you my second new blog series for 2019. This is #inspirationalwomenwednesday. Each week I will write about a woman that is inspirational to me. I hope you enjoy and feel inspired. <3
In 1926, Gertrude Ederle became the first woman to swim the English Channel, breaking the previous record by around two hours despite dealing with strong winds that were fighting against her. Gertrude was only the sixth person to complete the 21-mile route, that stretches between France and England. Her record remained intact for nearly a quarter-century. According to the New York Times writer Richard Severo, “Ederle was a symbol of the Roaring ’20s, a decade given as much to heroics as to materialism.”
Full name Gertrude Caroline Ederle, born October 23, 1905, in New York, New York. Born into a family that loved the water, Gertrude’s father, a butcher, taught her to swim when she was only 2 years old, by attaching a rope around her tiny little toddler waist. Gertrude and her siblings spent their summers in the Atlantic. Doctors warned Gertrude to stay out of the water, after a bout with the measles, which did cause slight hearing loss. However, Gertrude couldn’t stay out of the water.
Gertrude competed in the 1924 Olympics in Paris, France. Upon her return home, she began training for a swim from the tip of Manhattan to Sandy Hook, New Jersey. Gertrude completed the swim in 1925 with an impressive seven hours, eleven minutes, and was immediately hooked on record-setting distance swimming. Later in 1925, she made her first attempt at swimming the English Channel. However, Gertrude was forced to stop when nine hours into the swim her trainer, thinking she was in trouble, reached out from his boat and grabbed her. This was against the rules of distance swimming.
This did not alter her determination to succeed. Gertrude hired a new coach/trainer named Bill Burgess who had successfully swum the Channel in 1911. She knew he could offer her an insight that only he and the other four men that completed the swim could give. Gertrude, her coach, her family, friends, and numerous reporters returned to France in August of 1926. Reporters were intrigued by her willpower and stubbornness, this “Daredevil” stunt came at a time when women athletes were up against a tremendous bias.
Gertrude started her swim at 7 a.m. She covered herself with olive oil, vaseline, and sheep grease, with strict instructions for NO ONE to touch her unless the order came directly from her. 14 hours, 31 minutes later (two hours faster than the men’s record), Gertrude completed her swim of the English Channel.
Gertrude made headlines around the world, honored with a parade in New York City, invited to meet President Calvin Coolidge. She was nicknamed “Miss What-For” because her coach kept shouting “what for?” during her swim when he was concerned about the weather conditions. As her doctors’ had predicted, Gertrude’s hearing loss did worsen and she did fade from the public eye somewhere around 1939. She taught deaf children to swim at a school for the hard of hearing in New York City. Most of her life was spent in Flushing, Queens. Gertrude passed away at the age of 98. Her record for swimming the English Channel stood strong until 1950. Gertrude Ederle remained modest about her amazing accomplishment. According to the Times of London, she was quoted as saying “I knew it could be done,” when she arrived at the finish of her record swim.
I hope you enjoyed this week’s Inspirational Woman Story.
“But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” -Isaiah 40:31