During the summer of 1926, journalists from America and
Europe focused their readers' attention on who would become
the first woman to swim the English Channel.
Among these were four Americans: Mille Gade, a swim
instructor and mother of two small children; Lillian
Cannon, a 'professional' swimmer from Baltimore; Clarabelle
Barrett, a would-be professional singer and 19-year-old New
Yorker; and Gertrude Ederle, who had unsuccessfully
attempted the Channel crossing the previous summer.
Whether you are interested in swimming history or world
events or just like an intriguing story, The Great
Swim details the actual accounts of the crossing
attempts of each of these four remarkable individuals in
this wonderfully educating and entertaining book.
The drama of the swims not only occurs in the water, but
also in learning where these women come from, their family
histories, and their swimming experience and
Equally enthralling is what happens after their unique
and shared experiences in the icy and challenging waters
between England and France that summer of '26. Each had
their own reason for wanting to swim the channel and obtain
the potential fame and riches that may bring the first
woman to do so.
Politics, controversy, finances and a continuous
'one-upmanship' by the world's journalists, each vying to
get the latest scoop on this historic event, make for
entertaining reading today just as they were attempting to
do for their respective newspaper's readership back
Channel coaches Thomas Burgess and Jabez Wolffe, both
former Channel swimmers themselves, (only Burgess being
successful in 1911), are colorfully interwoven into the
narrative. Of course there were other challengers to the
Channel that summer besides the American quartet, both male
and female. Many of their stories are shared as they
intersect with the lives of the four from across the
The culture of 'celebrity' is introduced as they finish
their respective swims and return home. Ederle and Gade
both returned to the States having successfully swum the
Channel. Ederle, who will forever be known as the first
woman to swim the English Channel, received the first of
its kind, ticker tape parade through the streets of New
York City. Both had opportunities to cash-in on their feats
with varied and interesting results.
The Epilogue brings the reader up-to-date with what many
of the major characters did during the rest of their lives
and when and how old many of them were when they died.
Interesting notes as the author brings this book to an