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Kitty O'Neil: The Fastest Woman on Earth

Page history last edited by Elizabeth Bryant 11 years ago

Kitty Linn O'Neil was born in Corpus Christi, Texas on March 24, 1946. Her mother was a Native American from the Cherokee tribe and her father was Irish. Kitty became deaf when she was 5 months old, after simultaneously contracting the measles, mumps, and smallpox. Kitty's mother, Patsy, went to the University of Texas to earn her teacher’s certification and taught Kitty at home until the age of 8. Her mother taught her to use speech and speechreading as a means of communication and Kitty continued to utilize this communication method as an adult. A natural swimmer and athlete, Kitty moved to Anaheim, California when she was only 16 to begin training as a diver. She graduated from high school with honors in 1963 and was named "Young American of the Month" by American Youth Magazine for her accomplishments as a competitive diver. As a teenager, Kitty struggled with spinal meningitis and was in jeopardy of losing the use of her legs. However, she was walking again a short time later and went on to pursue her love of sports and adventure. After racing drag boats, motorcycles, and sports cars, Kitty began a career as a professional stuntwoman in Hollywood with the help of her first husband, Duffy Hambleton. She worked in movies, as well as popular T.V. shows, such as Wonder Woman and The Bionic Woman. Kitty often referred to her deafness as an asset in her career because it gave her the ability to focus on tasks without the distractions many other stunt people had to deal with. One of her most legendary accomplishments took place in 1976, when Kitty broke the women’s land speed record. She drove a 48,000-horsepower, rocket-powered vehicle, named The Motivator, across the dry lakebed of Lake Alvord in Oregon at the speed of 512 miles per hour.

 


References:

 

Panara, R. (1983). Cultual Arts Among Deaf People. Gallaudet Today, 13(3), 12-16.

 

Bowie, P. (1977). The Fastest Woman on Earth. Saturday Evening Post, 249(2), 42-83, 4p.

 

Phinizy, C. (1977). A Rocket Ride to Glory and Gloom. Sports Illustrated, 46(3), 26-31.

 

Marquis Who's Who on the Web. (2009). Retrieved June 21, 2009 from http://www.marquiswhoswho.com/.

 

Gannon, J. R. (1981). Deaf Heritage: A Narrative History of Deaf America. Silver Spring, Maryland: National Association of the Deaf.

 

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