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Ederle, Gertrude (23 October 1905–30 November 2003), swimmer, was born in New York City, the daughter of Henry Ederle (pronounced EDD-ur-lee, with the accent on the first syllable) and Gertrude Hazerstroh. Both parents were German immigrants. At the age of five Gertrude, known as Trudy, was stricken with a severe case of measles that left her hearing impaired. The Ederles owned a butcher shop on the West Side of Manhattan; as she grew older Trudy worked in the shop after school and during the summer along with her five siblings....

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Annette Kellerman Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-91616).

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Kellerman, Annette (06 July 1887–05 November 1975), swimming, vaudeville, and film star, was born in Sydney, Australia, the daughter of Frederick Kellerman, a musician, and Alice Charbonnet, a concert pianist. A weak child, Kellerman began swimming as physical therapy for a mild case of polio. Feeling more graceful in water than on land in her leg braces, swimming literally became her life. As the strength in her legs increased, she also learned to dive. In 1902 she won her first title as Swim Champion of New South Wales and set a world record of 78 seconds for 100 yards using the newly introduced racing technique of the double-over arm crawl and scissors kick. By her own admission, she also reigned as the champion girl diver of Australia the same year. The next year, she set a world record for the mile at 32:29 minutes, subsequently lowering it to 28:00 minutes. Her first of many record-setting distance swims covered 10 miles in Australia’s Yarrow River. She began professional swimming and diving exhibitions in Sydney, then toured Melbourne and Adelaide....

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Madison, Helene Emma (19 June 1913–25 November 1970), swimmer, was born in South Bend, Washington, the daughter of Charles William Madison and Cecilia Helene Ensby. During her childhood the family moved to Seattle, Washington, where her father operated a dry-cleaning business. At age five Helene learned to swim the dog paddle and then the crawl in Green Lake. In 1927 she won her first race, a 50-yard sidestroke event, at a Seattle Parks meet. Switching her practice sessions from Green Lake to Seattle’s Crystal Pool, she improved her abilities gradually. She finished second in a 100-yard freestyle competition at the 1928 state championships. Impressed by Helene’s potential, Ray Daughters, the swim coach at Crystal Pool, began teaching her the six-beat crawl stroke and other techniques that shortly transformed her into a champion....

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Norelius, Martha (20 January 1910–23 September 1955), swimmer, was born in Stockholm, Sweden, the daughter of Charles Norelius, a swimmer; her mother’s name is unknown. Norelius was originally coached by her father, who swam for Sweden in the 1906 Olympics. After the Norelius family emigrated to the United States, however, Louis de Breda Handley took over as her coach, and Norelius soon made an impact in U.S. swimming circles as the top U.S. swimmer from 1924 to 1929, with her fame resting primarily on her Olympic accomplishments. She won the 400-meter freestyle event in 1924 at Paris, leading an American sweep in an Olympic record time of 6:02.2. In 1928 she defended that Olympic championship at Amsterdam, winning the final with a world record of 5:42.8. The mark broke the world record of 5:45.4, which she had set in winning her heat at the 1928 Olympics. Her 15-second victory margin in 1928 has remained the most dominant Olympic swim victory, as she was the only woman to have defended the 400-meter event at the Olympics. At the 1928 Olympics, Norelius won her third gold medal by participating on the 4 × 100-meter freestyle relay team....

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Rawls, Katherine Louise (14 June 1917–08 April 1982), swimmer and diver, was born in Nashville, Tennessee, the daughter of William Jennings Bryan Rawls and Sadie Rebecca McDonald, farmers. The family moved to Florida and lived in St. Augustine, Tampa, Hollywood, and Coral Gables, eventually settling in Fort Lauderdale in 1932. While still small, “Katy” contracted rheumatism. When swimming was suggested as a remedy, she took to the water readily and quickly developed natural aquatic skills, as did her younger siblings. The children became known locally as “the water babies.”...