Women Who Swim

Evan Atlas
12 min readSep 23, 2021

The purpose of this post is to see if we can arrive at an inspiring and actionable contribution to women’s social-spiritual potential. This topic would normally travel a route which passes by direct political matters, feminist theory, and so on. And it’s not that this post isn’t about those things, it’s just that my intention is to arrive at social-spiritual power by way of stories, symbols, and swimming — from which we work backwards to derive appropriate action.

Specifically, this post is about Trudy Ederle, the sea, post-God spirituality, and the symbol-story complex which all together point to a society which doesn’t just value the social-political-economic conditions of women, but also their enlightenment.

The following is a look at the real life of Gertrude “Trudy” Ederle, and how her experience, though exceptional in some ways, is perfectly common in others. The recurring pattern is what most interests us — as in, what makes Trudy an archetype of women’s spiritual and social power, or at least the drive towards that reality? Glenn Stout writes about young Trudy learning to swim with her sisters:

“She was floating, a strange sensation that was at once utterly new yet strangely familiar, a sensation that caused her first to gasp and then squeal, delighted to be suspended in the water, her arms and legs free to move about… Then, with Helen and Margaret often paddling along nearby, and giving their younger sister advice and encouragement, she slipped away from the piling and into the deeper water, paddling with her hands like they did, lifting her head up and kicking madly with her feet, trying to stay afloat. With each breath more of her fear and anxiety gave way and in their place came peace and joy. Helen and Meg gently teased their younger sister farther out, periodically allowing her to reach out and hang on and catch her breath, wrapping their arms around her, laughing and smiling as she beamed back at them. Trudy was equal now, just like them, exactly the same, able to do what they did.”

The first theme of the woman’s enlightenment is an affinity for water, which at once appears as a symbol for self-transcendence, and as a representation of women, per se, as in “that art thou”. Additionally, beyond an early love of water, scenes like the one above involve a kind of power-sharing that is non-exclusive. The…

Evan Atlas

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