Friday, March 15, 2013

Gertude (for Gertrude)

Knock knock. Who's there? Panther. Panther who? Panther no panth, I'm going thwimming! This was one of my nieces' and nephews' favorite knock-knock jokes when they were little, and we still reprise it from time to time while on summer vacation. Young boys are generally taught never to "hit a girl" and for a long time girls were taught never to "beat" a boy. But some of them apparently didn't get the memo. (I guess you could say those girls had 'tude.) A recent book display at the New York State Library entitled "Women Make History" tells us that Gertrude Ederle "was not just the first woman to swim the English Channel ... her time of 14 hours and 39 minutes was faster than the five men who swam it before her." Unfortunately for the exhibit, although happily for us, the text contains a typo in the champion's name: Gertude, rather than Gertrude. This one turns up 18 times in OhioLINK and 278 times in WorldCat, and it has also been blogged about here before. Gertrude Ederle was born in New York City on October 23, 1905, to German immigrant parents; clearly of hearty stock and a headstrong bent, she lived to the ripe old age of ninety-eight. Though women's fashions had become much less restrictive by the early twentieth century, "Trudy" was forced to battle the constraints of low expectations, as well as some lingering biases concerning female attire. When she joined the U.S. women's swim team at the VIIIth Olympiad in Paris in 1924, it was only the second time that American women had been permitted, according to the New York Times, to "take part in any [Olympic] activity in which they could not wear long skirts." But pants or no pants, boy, could that girl go swimming!

(Gertrude Ederle, American competitive swimmer, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

No comments: