Ethel McGary was born in New York and swam there for the Women’s Swimming Association (WSA). She swam the 400 metre freestyle at the 1928 Olympics, but the distance was really for too short for her, as she specialized in longer distances. McGary set two world records in the 880 yard free in August 1925, and also set a 1,500 freestyle world record in December of that year. She was AAU champion in the 1-mile in 1925-26 and won five AAU titles in long-distance swimming, in 1923, 1925-26, and 1928-29, helping the WSA win the team title in that event in 1927 and 1929-30. McGary also won AAU titles with the WSA in the 4x200 yard relay in 1924-25 and 1927-29.