Remembering Kitty O’Neil: The Deaf Stuntwoman Who Broke Barriers and Set Records

Kitty O’Neil was an inspiring woman who broke barriers in several fields during her lifetime. She was a stuntwoman, a speed record holder, and a deaf advocate. On March 23, 2023, Google dedicated a doodle to her, commemorating her achievements and legacy. In this blog, we will delve deeper into her life, career, and impact.

Who was Kitty O’Neil

Kitty O’Neil was born on March 24, 1946, in Corpus Christi, Texas. Her parents discovered that she was deaf when she was just five months old. Despite the initial shock, they were determined to provide her with a normal childhood and education. They sent her to a special school for the deaf in California, where she learned how to read lips, sign language, and speak.

Early Life

Growing up, Kitty was interested in sports and physical activities. She was an excellent swimmer and diver, and she also enjoyed playing basketball and softball. In high school, she discovered her love for speed and adrenaline when she went water skiing for the first time. From then on, she pursued various extreme sports, including snow skiing, skydiving, and drag racing.

Kitty’s passion for speed led her to pursue a career in stunt work. She moved to Hollywood in the early 1970s and began working as a stuntwoman. Her first major role was doubling for Lynda Carter in the hit TV series Wonder Woman. She performed many dangerous stunts, including high falls, car chases, and fire burns. She also worked on other popular shows and movies, such as The Bionic Woman, Smokey and the Bandit II, and The Blues Brothers.

She set a land speed record for women

the fastest woman in the world

Despite her success in the entertainment industry, Kitty’s biggest achievement came outside of it. In 1976, she set a land speed record for women by driving a rocket-powered vehicle called the SMI Motivator at an average speed of 512.7 miles per hour. The previous record had been held by a male driver, and Kitty shattered it by over 200 miles per hour. Her record still stands today.

Her achievement broke gender and disability barriers

Kitty’s achievement was significant not only because she broke a gender barrier but also because she did it as a deaf person. She had to rely on visual cues and hand signals to communicate with her team during the speed record attempt. She also had to cope with the physical demands of driving at such high speeds, such as the wind pressure and the intense heat from the rocket engine.

Kitty’s record-breaking accomplishment earned her widespread recognition and accolades. She was named “the fastest woman in the world” by the Guinness Book of World Records and was inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame in 2018. She also became a role model for young girls and women who aspired to excel in male-dominated fields.

a passionate advocate for the deaf community

Aside from her stunt and speed achievements, Kitty was also a passionate advocate for the deaf community. She often spoke about her experiences growing up as a deaf person and the challenges she faced in a hearing world. She also worked as a spokesperson for the National Association of the Deaf and served on the President’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities.

Kitty’s life and career were not without setbacks and obstacles. She suffered a serious injury while performing a stunt for The Bionic Woman in 1976, which left her temporarily paralyzed. She also faced discrimination and harassment as a woman and a deaf person in the entertainment and motorsports industries. However, she persevered and continued to pursue her goals and dreams.

Kitty passed away on November 2, 2018, at the age of 72. However, her legacy and impact continue to inspire and motivate people around the world. She proved that disabilities and gender should not be barriers to success and achievement.

Also read: Google honors environmental hero Mario Molina with captivating Doodle on his 76th birthday

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