Get there or die; this day or never.
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On August 6th, 1926, two years after winning gold at the Summer Olympics in Paris, 20-year-old New Yorker Gertrude Ederle became the first woman to swim across the English Channel. Accompanied by a boat that carried her father, Ederle’s journey began at Cape Gris-Nez, France and finished at Kent, England 14 hours and 34 minutes later, smashing the previous record—held by Enrique Tiraboschi—by two hours. It earned her the nickname ‘Queen of the Waves’ and an immense ticker tape parade on the streets of New York that was attended by two million ecstatic people. Two days after her epic swim, Ederle wrote to her dear mother. The letter was soon reprinted in various newspapers.
Aug 8, 1926
My dearest loving Mother
We did it, Mother, we did it, the trick is turned and aren’t you just so proud? We are all so happy. England and France are rejoicing in the glory. Oh, what crowds follow us here and there! The paper people are just impossible, but grand.
Mom, I had that feeling of sure success—just wouldn't give up. Not once was I on the point of abandoning the swim. The good God led me on safely. It all went so quick. On Thursday night we decided to go, it looked so wonderful. And Friday, off we were, but soon to discover the weather was going back on us. Yet nevertheless I kept my mind clear. Then, when Julia Harpman told me that my family at home was at The News office to get the returns, oh, I suddenly became so thrilled. Could just picture you, dear Mother, anxiously.
Just couldn’t give up then. You were with me on every stroke over. I did so much want to do it for you and make you feel proud of me.
‘Get there or die; this day or never,’ was my motto. Onto the pebbled beach of England I walked, no signs of weakness. Really, Mom, I can’t dope it all out yet. To finish so easily was never in my mind.
When they told me I still had three hours to go, away I went. The sea was terrible, but the small crowd I had on board was half my victory. They sang and cheered, pushed me on.
Artie Sorenson didn’t leave me a minute. He walked up and down the tug. No matter where I went, he was there. Margaret too was just lovely. Did everything in her power to help me get over. Didn’t I say I need people like her? Pop, too, was helping me on, only he felt bad, I mean sorry, for me. He just had to cry and, Mommie, he wants to say that you are too soft!
How happy and proud Pa is! No man could feel prouder. All he kept saying was ‘You did it, MY KID!’
Well, Mother, pray to God to see us home safely in your arms once again!
Coming back from England yesterday they buried me in flowers.
How happy everyone is.
Last night Pop gave a party. We did it. No more worrying.
Love and kisses galore for you, dear Mother. I am only your —