Ethelda Bleibtrey

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Ethelda Bleibtrey
Ethelda Bleibtrey 1920.jpg
Bleibtrey at 1920 Olympics
Personal information
Full name Ethelda Marguerite Bleibtrey
National team  United States
Born (1902-02-27)February 27, 1902
Waterford, New York
Died May 6, 1978(1978-05-06) (aged 76)
West Palm Beach, Florida
Sport Swimming
Strokes Freestyle
Club Women's Swimming Association

Ethelda Marguerite Bleibtrey (February 27, 1902 – May 6, 1978), also known by her married name Ethelda Schlatke, was an American competition swimmer, three-time Olympic gold medalist, and former world record-holder in multiple events.

Bleibtrey was a dominant backstroke swimmer, but entered and won gold medals in three freestyle events when there were no women's backstroke events at the 1920 Summer Olympics in Antwerp, Belgium.[1] She won a gold medal as member of the winning U.S. team in the women's 4×100-meter freestyle relay, together with teammates Margaret Woodbridge, Frances Schroth and Irene Guest.[1][2] The American relay team set a new world record of 5:11.6 in the event final.[1] Individually, Bleibtrey also received gold medals and set world records in the women's 100-meter freestyle (1:13.6) and the women's 300-meter freestyle (4:34.0).[3][4]

She was born in Waterford, New York.[1] She started swimming to help recover from polio, which she contracted in 1917. In 1919, she was arrested for "nude swimming" — she removed her stockings at a pool where it was forbidden to bare "the lower female extremities for public bathing." The subsequent public support for Bleibtrey led to the abandonment of stockings as a conventional element in women's swimwear.[5]

Bleibtrey was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame as an "Honor Swimmer" in 1967.[6] She died in West Palm Beach, Florida in 1978.[1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e, Olympic Sports, Athletes, Ethelda Bleibtrey. Retrieved November 30, 2012.
  2. ^, Olympic Sports, United States Swimming at the 1920 Antwerpen Summer Games. Retrieved November 30, 2012.
  3. ^, Olympic Sports, Swimming at the 1920 Antwerpen Summer Games, Women's 100 metres Freestyle Final. Retrieved November 30, 2012.
  4. ^, Olympic Sports, Swimming at the 1920 Antwerpen Summer Games, Women's 300 metres Freestyle Final. Retrieved November 30, 2012.
  5. ^ "Ethelda Bleibtrey," Encyclopædia Britannica (2012). Retrieved November 30, 2012.
  6. ^ International Swimming Hall of Fame, Honorees, Ethelda Bleibtrey (USA). Retrieved November 30, 2012.


  • Floyd Conner, The Olympic's Most Wanted: The Top 10 Book of Gold Medal Gaffes, Improbable Triumphs, and Other Oddities, Brassey's (2002). ISBN 1-57488-413-1.

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Fanny Durack
Women's 100-meter freestyle
world record-holder (long course)

August 23, 1920 – June 30, 1923
Succeeded by
Gertrude Ederle