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Gertrude Ederle | The Nation

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Gertrude Ederle

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Here's one example of what can happen when women are freed from their corsets.

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A letter from the future president.

The Drifter remembers the great inventor.

Gertrude has won her roadster. Incidentally she has, of course, performed an amazing feat and beaten all records set by men for swimming the Channel; she has demonstrated the virtue of a feminine generation brought up without corsets, high heels, or long skirts; she has brought a coveted record home to America and the shores of the Shrewsbury River; she has proved a credit to her father and to "Mum" who hardened Gertrude's muscles and built her endurance on sweeping and floor scrubbing. She has, moreover, brought smiles of guileless satisfaction to the lips of the retail meat dealers of New York who issued the following resolution on Gertrude's success:

The public will perhaps pardon the retail meat dealers if they rise to remark that Miss Ederle's triumph may be attributed in some measure to the fact that she is a daughter of a butcher; that meats have always been a staple article of food in her diet; that a thick, juicy steak is her favorite dish; and that several times during her swim she renewed her strength with beef extract.

But chiefly, Gertrude has won her roadster. The white shores of England may have seemed dismally remote to the girl as she fought the shifting tide; the honor of her sex may have looked a little abstract when her left leg grew cramped and "wouldn't kick properly"; but Gertrude kept her eyes on the roadster dangled right in front of them by her father. As a New York Times reporter described it:

Pop continually roared over the side of the boat: "Trudie, don't forget you won't have that roadster unless you get over."

Gertrude always responded: "Pop, I will have that roadster."

Which proves that Gertrude, although perhaps the greatest long-distance swimmer of all time, is primarily an amusing and normal American kid.

Other swimmers, with the heart rather taken out of their performance, are almost daily setting out across the Channel. The chances are of course that none of then will get across. As we write, two men have already given up after hours of heart-breaking struggle in the icy currents. Experts admit that small hope exists of bettering Gertrude Ederle's record; only an amazing combination of speed and luck could do it. The cash value of all future efforts must be noticeably depressed. Many of the swimmers, however, are under contract to make the attempt, and if they fail to break Gertrude's record of speed they may at least produce new marvels of distance and endurance. Another American woman, Clara Barrett, three days before Gertrude's triumphant crossing, failed by two miles to make the English shore, covering forty miles of water and sticking to it for twenty-one hours--some ten miles and seven hours more than Gertrude. If a thick fog had not blanketed and bewildered her for twelve hours she could undoubtedly have made her goal; her mileage and endurance were sufficient under any decent conditions. Clara Barrett deserves more honor for her failure than she is likely ever to receive.

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