With passion for the sea, Gertrude "Tudy" Caroline Ederle (1906-), on this day in 1926, became the first woman to swim across the English Channel. Despite pleas from her coach to stop because of treacherous seas, the nineteen year crossed the channel's 21 miles in 14 hours and 31 minutes, breaking the existing men's record by one hour, 59 minutes.
"To me, the sea is like a person - like a child that I've known a long time," Ederle explained. "It sounds crazy, I know, but when I swim in the sea I talk to it. I never feel alone when I'm out there."
The daughter of a New York delicatessen owner, Ederle learned to swim as a young child and began competing as a teenager. She broke 24 amateur and world records between 1921 and 1925. At the 1924 Paris Summer Olympics, she won one gold and two bronze medals.
For her triumphant trek across the English Channel, from Cape Gris-Nez, France, to Dover, England, Ederle wore a red bathing cap and two-piece black bathing suit. She coated herself with lanolin and heavy grease to protect her body from the frigid water.
"I knew if it could be done, it had to be done, and I did it," she said when she made it ashore. "All the women of the world will celebrate." Propelled to stardom, she was the first person honored in a New York ticker-tape parade.
About Ederle's remarkable accomplishment, then-New York Mayor Jimmy Walker celebrated: "American women have even added to the glory of our nation."
Let your passion create action.