Resource

Life Story: Gertrude Ederle (1906–2003)

Olympian and International Swimming Phenomenon

The story of a daughter of immigrants who became one of the most famous athletes in the world.

New Swimming Star Is All Around Sportswoman

New Swimming Star Is All Around Sportswoman, Aug 6, 1922. Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division, Washington, D.C.

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Lillian Cannon offering her best wishes to Gertrude Ederle

Lillian Cannon, of Baltimore, Md., offering her best wishes to Gertrude Ederle, as she starts out from Cape Griz Nez, France, on her successful attempt to swim the English Channel, 1926. Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division, Washington, D.C.

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Parade for Gertrude Ederle coming up Broadway

Parade for Gertrude Ederle coming up Broadway, New York City, with large crowd watching, 1926. Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division, Washington, D.C.

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Suggested Activities

  • Learn more about flapper culture in the media and in reality. Then consider the extent to which Gertrude contradicted and supported the ideals of flappers and the Jazz Age. 
  • Pair Gertrude’s life story with a letter written by another record-breaking adventure-seeker, Amelia Earhart. How did each woman represent new ideas of what it meant to be a woman and an American? 
  • Practice working with maps and chart Gertrude’s most famous swim from Cape Gris-Nez, France, to Dover, England. Ask students to compare this location with her earlier swim from Battery Park, New York City, to Sandy Hook, New Jersey. 
  • Compare photographs of Gertrude in her bathing suit to recreational outfits from the Progressive Era. What does this tell you about changing attitudes toward women and athletics? 
  • Encourage students to compare Gertrude’s story with other female athletes who broke records and competed against their male counterparts. 
  • Show students other examples of ticker-tape parades celebrating female athletes, including the recent 2019 Women’s World Cup champions. Why are these parades important, particularly for women? 
  • Gertrude suffered from hearing loss for most of her life. Encourage students to identify other Americans with disabilities, and discuss how these individuals overcame obstacles to achieve their goals.

Themes

AMERICAN CULTURE

Source Notes
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