“They insisted I come out and oh, no, I didn’t want to. I could see the shore. Oh what a heartbreak.”


Shirley May France Setters 1932 – 2012
American Shirley France attempted to become the youngest woman to swim the English Channel in 1949. However, valiant the attempt, Shirley was pulled from the frigid waters only a few miles from shore, “I could see the cliffs . . . the White Cliffs of Dover. Oh I was screaming murder. But they grabbed me and once they touch you, you’re all done . . . you’re disqualified.” But that didn’t stop the plucky 17 year old girl. She decided to give it another shot a year later. The first woman to swim the English Channel, Gertrude Ederle, said, “If anybody can break my record, I want Shirley May to do it.” But her second attempt failed as well when she was pulled again from the frigid water only six miles from England. Even though she never achieved her goal she became an icon on both sides of the Atlantic for her grit and determination.