Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Swim, Girl, Swim -- thirty-five miles

     Today's poem uses a single number (35) as it celebrates Gertrude Ederle (1905-2003), an Olympic (1924) swimmer and (in 1926) English Channel crosser -- also, I notice, someone whose Wikipedia entry needs more work.  This poem honoring Ederle --  by a Children's Poet Laureate, J. Patrick Lewis -- I found at
     As the 2016 Olympics take place now in Rio, many of the stories feature outstanding female athletes -- and it has not gone unnoticed that male competitors are simply "athletes" whereas Olympic women are "female" athletes.   Is this unconscious bias?  It is similar to the way a mathematician who is a woman is detractingly described as "a female mathematician."

Celebrate Gertrude Ederle!   Celebrate swimmers!

     Swim, Girl, Swim     by J. Patrick Lewis
                    for Gertrude Ederle
     As Europe woke from sleep,
     Young Trudy Ederle
     At Cap Gris Nez in France
     Dived into a daunting sea.   

     Many had tried to make
     This superhuman swim—
     Thirty-five punishing miles.
     Chances, at best, were slim.

     When Fury found the waves,
     Far from the western shore,
     Her trainer shouted, "Let's turn back!"
     But Trudy cried, "What for?"

     Under an English moon,
     The celebration began
     After the fastest crossing
     By woman or by man.

This poem also is found in Lewis's collection Vherses: A Celebration of Outstanding Women, (Creative Editions, 2005). 
Celebrate those who count!  Celebrate mathematicians!

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