Photograph of the Month - October 2012

Past display archive
1 October - 31 October 2012

Room 31

Free



Mercedes Gleitze, by J.P. Bamber Studios of Blackpool, 1928 - NPG  - © National Portrait Gallery, London

Mercedes Gleitze
by J.P. Bamber Studios of Blackpool
1928
NPG P872

October marks the 85th anniversary of the first successful attempt at swimming the English Channel by an Englishwoman. Born in Brighton, Gleitze trained for long-distance swimming while working as a secretary. In 1922 she made her first attempt to swim the English Channel but was forced to stop due to an injury. After a further six attempts she successfully made the crossing on 7 October 1927. Swimming through dense fog, with visibility of only five yards, Gleitze’s feet touched English land after swimming for fifteen hours and fifteen minutes.

Within days of her success another woman announced she had made the crossing in a quicker time. When her claim proved to be a hoax Gleitze felt that her own achievement had been discredited; in order to defend her record she set out for what the press called her ‘Vindication Swim.’ Poor conditions forced her to stop after ten hours, but her perceived bravery and determination convinced the press and public that she was capable of having achieved the crossing.

Previous Photographs of the Month