Girl Power!

Years ago, women did not have many rights. They could not vote. They could not work outside the home. They did not have power. Over the years, women tried to change that. Today, women can vote. They hold powerful jobs. They are respected.

Ethelda Bleibtrey made a difference. She paved the way for women in sports. She was a swimmer. On August 25, 1920, she became the first American woman to win an Olympic gold medal in swimming. She actually won three gold medals. She also helped to change women's swimwear.

Ethelda was born in 1902. Most athletes began their sport when they were very young. They worked hard for many years. They wanted to be the best. Ethelda was different. She did not start swimming until one year before the Olympics.

Ethelda had polio. Polio is a disease. Before 1955, many children had it. It was easy to catch from others. Many parents thought that their children had the flu. Children with polio had trouble breathing. It was hard for them to use their muscles. Some children had to be put in an iron lung. It looked like an iron tube. Rows and rows of the machines were found in hospitals. The children would lie down inside. The machine would help them breathe. It would pull and push their chest muscles.

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