Where Are They Now? Gertrude Ederle First Woman to Swim English Channel

About Gertrude Ederle the first woman to swim the English Channel, what happened to after she was famous.

Headline--1926: GERTRUDE EDERLE

At the Peak: At 7:09 on the morning of August 6, 1926, Gertrude Ederle--"Trudy" to her friends--dived into the choppy waters at Cap Gris Nez, in France, to attempt what no woman had ever done before her: the crossing of the English Channel. Nineteen and confident, she was determined not only to cross the 35-mi.-wide Channel, but to do it in record time. The New York Daily News and the Chicago Tribune, evidently sharing her confidence, were backing her attempt, and noted reporter Westbrook Pegler, assigned to ghostwrite Trudy's account of the crossing for the Tribune, followed alongside her in a small boat, accompanied by his wife and Gertrude's trainer, Thomas Burgess. Optimism was the prevailing mood.

Not that it would be a breeze. She had attempted the Channel once before, in 1925, and had failed, as had countless other swimmers, both male and female. On this trip, waves and winds buffeted her so mercilessly that after she'd been in the water 12 hours, Burgess was moved to beg her to come out. Trudy looked up and without missing a stroke asked, "What for?" At 9:40 that evening, she clambered out of the water onto the beach at Kingsdown, England, where a British immigration officer wryly asked for her passport. It had taken her 14 hours and 31 minutes to swim the Channel, the best time ever recorded by man or woman.

Back in the States, Trudy, the daughter of a Manhattan delicatessen owner, was hailed as a heroine and feted with a ticker-tape parade in New York City. She went on tour for 2 years and her income from endorsements, public appearances, and a 1927 movie called Swim, Girl, Swim, earned her $2,000 a week, most of which she donated to the Woman's Swimming Association, which had sponsored her 1st try at crossing the Channel.

While on tour, Trudy realized that her hearing had been impaired by her 14 1/2-hour odyssey, and she was forced to curtail her engagements. At the age of 21 she suffered a nervous breakdown, and in 1933, while visiting friends in Hempstead, Long Island, she fell, suffering a fractured pelvis and an injured spine. She was in a cast for 4 years.

As the 1930s waned, Trudy recovered, and made a comeback at Billy Rose's Aquacade at the 1939 New York World's Fair.

And Today: Gertrude Ederle shares a house with an old friend in Flushing, N.Y., where she has lived since the mid-1930s. Her hearing now so badly impaired that she wears a hearing aid and must read lips, Trudy at 67 teaches swimming to youngsters at the Lexington School for the Deaf in Manhattan.

"I proved women's lib 45 years ago," she said in 1971. "People said women couldn't swim the Channel, but I proved they could."

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