U.S. Open Firsts

US OPENSerena Williams is favored to win the U.S. Open. If she does she will have a calendar Grand Slam: winning the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon, and U.S. Open in the same year. She will be the first player to do this since Steffi Graf in 1988.

Serena is probably also responsible for another first. This year, for the first time in the history of the U.S. Open (since 1881) the women’s singles finals sold out before the men’s.

Katrina Adams also adds to the firsts since, just this year, she became the first African-American and first former professional tennis player to serve as the USTA’s Chairman of the Board, CEO and President.

How long until women play five sets?

Kacy Catanzaro

Screen Shot 2014-08-06 at 11.10.27 AMIn the fifth season of American Ninja Warrior, Kacy Catanzaro was the first woman to complete the grueling course. After training for two years, the 5-foot, 100-lb, 24-year old woman thrilled supporters who quick created the hashtag #MightyKacy.

Alice Coachman, Olympic Gold Medalist

Alice CoachmALICE COACHMAN OLDERan, the first African-American woman to win an Olympic gold medal, died this week in her hometown of Albany, Georgia. She was 90 years old.

In 1948 Alice Coachman competed in the Olympics and won the high jump at the London Games. Alice believed she reached her peak in 1944 and might have won a gold medal that year, as well as in 1940, had the games not been cancelled because of the Second World War.

 

ALICE COACHMAN ATHLETEBecause of her race, and the fact that she lived in the South, Alice was barred from sports facilities because of her color. She improvised practice facilities, running along dirt roads and across fields. She also participated in other sports. At Tuskegee University, she was on a basketball team that won three straight conference titles.

When she returned from the London Olympics she met President Harry Truman at the White House followed by a 175-mile motorcade through Georgia to celebrate her victory. At the official ceremony in Albany, Georgia, however, the audience in the auditorium was segregated by race, the mayor did not shake her hand, and she was required to leave by a side door. Even her 25 national athletics championships, including 10 consecutive high jump titles could not overcome the color of her skin.

She was inducted into the USA Track and Field Hall of Fame in 1975 and the US Olympic Hall of Fame in 2004. When her athletic career ended, she remembered her own hardships and created the Alice Coachman Track and Field Foundation, which provides financial assistance to needy young and retired athletes.

Fall 2013’s First Women To. . .

THE MUSESI received the lovely grace of being able to spend the fall in Southern Europe. I enjoyed the quality of life and the freedom from the usual daily responsibilities, but I missed out on being in touch with the news from the United States. When I returned to a pile of magazines and newspapers that I had not read, I began to plow through them and discovered that there had been several firsts for women of which I had been unaware:

**In September, Nancy Gibbs, a best-selling author and essayist who comments on politics and values in the United States, became the first woman to hold the position of Managing Editor at Time magazine.

** Mylène Paquette of Montreal was the first women to row a one-person boat across the North Atlantic. Literally, this one doesn’t fit my listing of first women from the United States, but Time magazine said she was the “first North American woman to” and that certainly makes her American:

**Janet Napolitano has already appeared in the daily Women of Note twice: on November 6th, as the first woman governor to succeed another woman governor and on November 29th, her birthday, as the first Secretary of Homeland Security. Now she has another distinction: the first woman to head the University of California’s 10-campus system.

**Susan Westerberg Prager is the first dean and chief executive of Southwestern Law School in Los Angeles. Earlier in her career she was the first woman to hold the position of dean of the University of California at Los Angeles School of Law.

**Three women share the “First Woman To. . .” honors for being the first to pass the Marine Corps’ combat training course: Pfcs Julia Carroll, Christina Fuentes Montenegro and Katie Gorz.

***And now, Mary Barra has been named the first female CEO of General Motors. She is the first CEO of any major auto company and General Motors is now the biggest company in America headed by a woman.

***Janet Yellen still waits in the wings for Senate confirmation of her appointment to chief of the Federal Reserve. The word is her appointment will be approved before the end of the year. At that time she joins Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, as one of the two most powerful economic leaders in the free world.

If you know of any more firsts from the fall of 2013, please add them here, by clicking on the comments section.

Gertrude Ederle – “Queen of the Waves”

     Bathing suits that gave women the freedom to swim were considered scandalous and women were expected to wear stockings for swimming competitions when Gertrude “Trudy” Ederle decided to compete. Only when women agreed to robe as soon as they stepped out of the water did men agree to remove these impediments from the sport.

GERTRUDE EDERLE      Gertrude Ederle was nine when she began to swim and did not learn proper technique until she was fifteen. A year later, she won her first competition and between 1921 and 1925 set twenty-nine amateur records. In 1924 she went to the Olympics in Paris and won a gold medal with the U.S. team in the women’s 4×100-meter freestyle relay. She also took individual bronze medals in the women’s 100-meter freestyle and women’s 400-meter freestyle.

“Trudy” later lamented that she had not won three gold medals but proclaimed herself proud to be a part of the American team that won 99 medals. Swimmer Johnny Weissmuller, oarsman Benjamin Spock and tennis player Helen Wills were some of the other competitors. (Another team member, DeHart Hubbard, was the first black man to win an individual gold medal.)

Ederle was the first woman to swim the length of New York Bay—beating the records of the men who had preceded her, a foreshadowing for her future. When she set her sights on swimming the English Channel, there were several woman attempting the same feat and she felt pressure to be the first. During her first attempt her trainer forced her out of the water. She disagreed with his decision, fired him, and hired another coach, Tom Burgess. On her second attempt, once again the coach, encouraged her to quit. “Gertie, you must come out!” he insisted as the galling winds swirled around her. She lifted her head from the choppy waters and replied, “What for?” Her family, on an accompanying tug, supported her decision and she finished the swim she had begun in France at Cape Griz-Nez. Fourteen hours and thirty-nine minutes later she came ashore at Kingsdown, Kent, England—bettering the time of the five men who preceded her by two hours. She was greeted by an immigration official who demanded to see her passport.

After this Ederle traveled with vaudeville. In 1933 Ederle injured her back and could no longer compete but she did swim in the “Aquacade” at the 1939 New York World’s Fair, along with Johnny Weismuller, Buster Crabbe and Esther Williams, who had trained at the same club in New York as Ederle.

Due to a childhood bout of measles, and probably exacerbated by the Channel swim, Ederle lost her hearing. It was only natural that she would teach swimming to deaf children. She died at the age of 98.  In 2008, five years after her death, BBC presented a radio play dramatizing her feat. It was repeated in 2010 and 2012. The Gertrude Ederle Recreation Center in the Upper West Side of Manhattan, not far from where she grew up and learned to swim, stands in her honor.

LEARN MORE:

Read a short biography: http://www.biography.com/people/gertrude-ederle-9284131

Read a longer biography: America’s Girl: The Incredible Story of How Swimmer Gertrude Ederle Changed the Nation by Tim Dahlberg

For an eight grade girl’s view of Ederle, watch the well-designed video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2jfGy3pzKvc

QUESTION OF THE WEEK:

Gertrude Ederle dropped out of high school to pursue her goal. Have you ever made a sacrifice to achieve a dream?