Mercedes Gleitze, a 1969 International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame inductee, was the first Englishwoman to swim the English Channel in 1927 before and after which she had a very interesting, successful and rewarding life.
In an era before modern-day aviation, Mercedes swam throughout Europe, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. She was born in Brighton, England in 1900 and was educated in both England and Germany as she traveled between the two countries because of World War I.
By the early 1920s, she began training in the Thames and by 1923 set a British ladies record of 10 hours, 45 minutes swimming in the Thames.
After her 1927 English Channel success, her career then took off. She was the first person to swim the Straits of Gibraltar (in 12:50 in 1928). She swam over 20 hours in Lough Neagh, Ireland in 1929, 2 hours in Hellespont in 1930, over 19 hours in Galloway Bay, Ireland, over 48 hours in a 1931 competition in Sydney Harbour, Australia and over 46 hours in 1932 in Cape Town, South Africa.
Over the course of her career, she completed 5l endurance swims with 25 of them taking at least 26 hours to complete, many that attracted thousands of people to watch. She earned a good living from her marathon exploits which she unselfishly used to set up the Mercedes Glietz Home for the Homeless in Leicester, English which was in operation from 1933 until it was destroyed during World war II.
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