Today is the birthday of Gertrude Ederle (1905-2003). A New Jersey native, she became a champion swimmer at her local YWCA, and went on to win a gold medal at the 1924 Olympics. She became the first woman to swim the English channel in 1926. In the wake of this achievement, she began a successful tour of the big time vaudeville circuits, where she recounted her experiences. She was also featured in Billy Rose’s Aquacade at the 1939 World’s Fair.
Here’s newsreel footage of her amazing 1926 achievement:
To find out more about the variety arts past and present, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold. And don’t miss Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, to be released by Bear Manor Media in 2013.