Gertrude Ederle

Died November 30th, 2003

NEW YORK (AFP) - Gertrude Ederle, who battled male chauvinism and 20-foot waves to become the first woman to swim the English Channel, died Sunday at a nursing home in New Jersey. She was 98.

Staff at the nursing home said she died peacefully in her sleep.

Ederle was only 19 when, in 1926, she confounded expectations by swimming the stretch of water between England and France in just 14 hours and 31 minutes, a new record that eclipsed the efforts of the five men who had previously completed the marathon swim.

Her success translated into instant celebrity back in the United States, where she was feted by president Calvin Coolidge, received a ticker-tape parade in New York and even appeared in a brief Hollywood movie about her life.

Born in New York in 1905, Ederle learned to swim on the Jersey shore where her father owned a summer house.

Despite warnings from doctors that prolonged swimming could exacerbate a measles-induced hearing problem, Ederle said she was never able to stay away from the water.

"I loved the water so much. I just couldn't stop," she said.

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