Ethelda Bleibtrey

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.

Ethelda Bleibtrey
Bleibtrey at 1920 Olympics
Personal information
Full nameEthelda Marguerite Bleibtrey
National team United States
Born(1902-02-27)February 27, 1902
Waterford, New York
DiedMay 6, 1978(1978-05-06) (aged 76)
West Palm Beach, Florida
ClubWomen's Swimming Association

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] to John and Maggie Bleibtrey.[5] 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.[6]

Bleibtrey was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame as an "Honor Swimmer" in 1967.[7] She died in West Palm Beach, Florida in 1978.[1]

See also


  1., 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. 1910 United States Federal Census
  6. "Ethelda Bleibtrey," Encyclopædia Britannica (2012). Retrieved November 30, 2012.
  7. 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.

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

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

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