Who was Kitty O’Neil?
American stuntwoman and auto-racer Kitty O’Neil (March 24, 1946 − November 2, 2018) was known as “the fastest woman in the world” for her speed records. Her absolute land speed record lasted until 2019.
When she was young, she got sick and lost her hearing. When she was young adult, she got sick again and had to stop diving competitively. After that, O’Neil started driving cars and was one of the first women to do stunt work in Hollywood. She was in a lot of TV shows and movies, and her likeness was used to make an action figure. She was remembered at the 91st Academy Awards, and in March 2023, Google will honor her with a Doodle.
Kitty O’Neil: Early life:
On March 24, 1946, Corpus Christi, Texas, welcomed Kitty Linn O’Neil. Her father, John O’Neil, was an Army Air Forces officer and oil wildcatter. He died in an airplane accident when Kitty was a child. Cherokee mother Patsy Compton O’Neil. O’Neil lost her hearing at five months from many childhood ailments. After her deafness became obvious at two, her mother taught her lip-reading and speaking, becoming a speech therapist and co-founding a hearing-impaired school in Wichita Falls, Texas.
Kitty O’Neill was married until November 2, 2018, she married Ronald “Duffy” Hambleton. Kitty o’neil husband was a bank executive turned stunt performer, in the 1970s. Hambleton divorced O’Neill. O’Neill remarried but divorced again. O’Neill’s other boyfriends are unknown. Ronald “Duffy” Hambleton, her first husband, fathered two children.
Racing and stunt career of Kitty O’Neil
O’Neil raced the Baja 500 and Mint 400 in 1970. She lived with stuntmen Hal Needham and Ron Hambleton after racing motorcycles. She studied stunts with Needham, Hambleton, and Dar Robinson in the mid-1970s. She was Stunts Unlimited’s first lady in 1976. She stunted in The Bionic Woman, Airport ’77, The Blues Brothers, Smokey and the Bandit II, and others. Her daredevil career inspired Mattel’s 1978 Kitty O’Neil action figure.
Jeannie Epper, Lynda Carter’s stunt double, recruited O’Neil to do a challenging stunt in a 1979 Wonder Woman episode. She achieved a women’s high-fall record of 127 feet at Sherman Oaks’ 12-story Valley Hilton. She attributed her impact resistance to her 5′-2″ and 97-pound (44 kg) physique. A 180-foot helicopter fall smashed her record. O’Neil’s 1977 water speed record was 275 mph, while her 1970 water skiing record was 104.85 mph.
What Caused Kitty O’Neil’s Death?
Kitty O’Neil tragically died at the age of 72 from pneumonia. Her pioneering stuntwoman and racing career will inspire others despite her early death. She proved that gender and physical ability shouldn’t hold anyone back. Her legacy inspires perseverance and greatness. O’Neill’s passion, tenacity, and perseverance showed that everything is attainable with hard work.