Four years before becoming the first woman to swim the English Channel, two years before winning a gold and two bronze medals at the Paris Olympics, and two days before establishing six world's records at the Brighton Beach Invitational, sixteen-year-old swimming sensation Gertrude Ederle conquered the Raritan River at New Brunswick.
|Photo from the 1928 booklet "Save the Raritan"|
On Saturday September 2, 1922, automobiles lined River Road, spectators packed the Albany Street Bridge, and pleasure craft of all types crowded the Raritan for a spectacular day-long swim and diving meet. Having won the 220 yard national championship by setting a world's record just the week before in Bridgeport, Connecticut, the young Miss Ederle - Trudy to the press - faced stiff competition in the 440 yard race from European champion Hilda James of England, and her New York Women's Swimming Association teammate Helen Wainwright.
|1 September 1922 New Brunswick Daily Home News|
Gertrude Ederle went on to win a gold medal as part of the US 4 x 100 meter freestyle relay team at the 1924 Olypmics, but was disappointed in her bronze medal finishes in the 100 meter and 400 meter freestyle events. In 1925 she turned pro, which allowed her to accept endorsement money - particularly necessary for her two attempts at the English Channel in 1925 and 1926. Her second, successful, attempt of August 6, 1926 was not only a first for a woman, but also broke the men's record by nearly 2 hours with a time of 14 hours, 34 minutes.
She died in Wyckoff, NJ in 2003 at the age of 98.