Epstein, Charlotte 'Eppy'
Epstein was largely responsible for the inclusion of the American women's swimming team at the 1920 Olympics. It was the first time women competed in a major Olympic event. Named assistant manager of the women's team in 1932, she was the first female to fill such a position. Epstein was invited to coach the 1936 American women's swim team, but declined, and resigned from the United States Olympic Committee in protest of the Nazi's refusal to allow Jewish athletes to compete on the German Olympic team.
Considered the 'mother' of American women's swimming, Epstein became interested in swimming after the 1912 Stockholm Olympics. Although not a particularly strong swimmer, she had a passion for the sport and founded the National Women's Life Saving League in October l914. The League provided women with the facilities to learn and compete in the sport, allowing them to feel they had a place in the world of swimming. Following the League's establishment, Eppy persuaded the AAU to permit women swimmers to register as athletes. This victory encouraged thousands of women to actively participate in swimming for the first time as recognized athletes.
In 1917, Epstein founded the New York Women's Swimming Association. The WSA opened the door for female swimmers to compete at the Olympics. The success of women's swimming at the 1920 Games led to the inclusion of track and field and other sports for women in future Olympiads. For 22 years Epstein was the administrative genius behind the success of the WSA, and she saw her swimmers break 51 world records, win 202 individual AAU Women's Championships, and 30 National championship relays. During this time, U.S. female swimmers dominated the Olympics, and many of Eppy's protegees were champions, including Claire Galligen, Gertrude Ederle, Aleen Riggin, Helen Wainwright, and Eleanor Holm.
In 1935, Epstein shifted gears and accepted a position working for the 2nd Maccabiah Games in Israel. The following year, she resigned from the U.S. Olympic Committee in protest against Nazi Germany's policies. After her death in 1938, she was acclaimed for her efforts in bringing women's swimming to international recognition. In 1974, Epstein was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame, and in 1982, she was inducted into the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.
Birth and Death Dates:
b. Sept. 1884 - d. Aug. 27, 1938
New York City
Use links below to navigate through the olympics section of Jews In Sports.
Jewish Sports Legends: The International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, by Joseph Siegman (Washington, D.C.: Brassey's, 2000)
Great Jews in Sports by Robert Slater (New York: Jonathan David Publishers, 2000)
encyclopedia of JEWS in sports, by Bernard Postal, Jesse Silver, and Roy Silver (New York: Bloch Publishing Co., 1965)