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"I just knew it could be done, it had to be done, and I did it."

— Gertrude Ederle

Goggles, 1926
Artifact Detailsview larger

Ederle designed these watertight leather and rubber goggles for her Channel swim.

— Gift of Gertrude Ederle


Gertrude Ederle
First Woman to Swim the English Channel

Gertrude Ederle rocketed to international stardom in 1926 as the first woman to swim across the English Channel, a feat only five men had completed. On the morning of August 6, Ederle plunged into the icy waters at Gris-Nez, France, wearing the two-piece bathing suit and goggles she designed for the grueling test. For 14½ hours, she battled 35 miles of frigid water and treacherous tides. She emerged at Kingsdown, England, besting the fastest man's existing record by nearly two hours.

Ederle's accomplishment dispelled conventional wisdom about "the weaker sex" and proved that women could be great athletes. Eliminating that perception was the crowning achievement of her monumental career. From 1921 to 1925, the New York native set 29 U.S. and world records for swimming. She won a gold medal and two bronze medals in the 1924 Paris Olympics.

Dubbed "our American girl" by President Calvin Coolidge, Ederle came to symbolize the strength and independence of the modern woman.

Name: Gertrude Caroline Ederle
Born: New York City, New York, 1906–2003
  • First woman to swim English Channel
  • Gold Medalist, 400-meter freestyle relay, Paris Olympics, 1924
  • Bronze Medalist, 100- and 400-meter freestyle, Paris Olympics, 1924
  • 29 U.S. and world swimming records
  • Taught deaf children to swim after water damaged her own hearing


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