In honor of Women’s History Month, today we celebrate the incredible life of Kitty O’Neil. O’Neil, who became deaf at a young age due to childhood illness, led a fascinating, adventurous life. She was a motorcycle racer, stunt woman, and at one point was named fastest woman in the world, after averaging a speed of 512.710 mph while driving across a desert in Oregon.
O’Neil recovered but she wasn’t interested in diving anymore. “I got sick, so I had to start all over again, and I got bored. I wanted to do something fast. Speed. Motorcycle. Water skiing. Boat. Anything.” And O’Neil did it all. She discovered a love for speed in all its forms.
She started racing motorcycles, dune buggies and cars; participating in events like the Baja 500 and the Mint 400, the oldest and most prestigious off-road race in America. At one of her motorcycle races, O’Neil met Duffy Hambleton, who would introduce her to the world of Hollywood high-stakes stunt work.
O’Neil thrived in that environment. For the next few years, she dangled out of windows, flipped cars and was even set on fire several times. She worked on well-known films such as, “Smokey and the Bandit II,” “The Blues Brothers,” and popular television series such as, “Baretta.” In fact, O’Neil doubled for the iconic stars of both “The Bionic Woman” (Lindsay Wagner) and “Wonder Woman” (Lynda Carter). In less than five years, O’Neil’s reputation and skill behind the wheel would lead to what was perhaps her greatest adventure.
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