Despite several obstacles in her life, American stuntwoman Kitty O’Neil, who has been deaf since childhood, never let any of them stop her from pursuing her aspirations
The Google Doodle on Friday honoured Kitty O’Neil, an American stunt performer once dubbed “the fastest woman in the world,” for living a life of distinction. Google recognised the rocket-powered vehicle driver who has been deaf since infancy on the occasion of her 77th birthday.
The Doodle, created by deaf visiting artist Meeya Tjiang of Washington, DC, depicted Neil’s life by placing her next to a rocket-powered car as she stood proudly and beaming.
Kitty O'Neil: Who was she?
She was born in Corpus Christi, Texas, in 1946 to a Cherokee Native American mother and an Irish father. When she was just a few months old and developed several illnesses that caused her to become deaf, she suffered a serious setback in life. Neil, though, never allowed it to be a hindrance for her.
To overcome the odds, she mastered many forms of communication and, according to Google, even considered her deafness as a strength. Her passion for driving was hampered by an illness and wrist injury that ended her driving career, but Neil was devoted to realising his dream of being a professional athlete, Google added.
She participated in thrilling high-speed activities like water skiing and motorbike racing as well as stunts like falling from terrifying heights while on fire.
In the 1970s, she started a career as a stunt double for big-screen movies. She was the first woman to join Stunts Unlimited, an organisation for Hollywood’s elite stunt performers, according to Google. She appeared in The Bionic Woman (1976) and Wonder Woman (1977–1979). In 2018, she said goodbye to the world.
In 1976, Neil was crowned the ‘fastest woman alive’ for shattering all existing records for driving a rocket-powered car. At 512.76 miles an hour, she surpassed the last record by almost 200 mph. With that performance, nobody had doubts that she couldn’t beat the men’s record but the world wouldn’t know that because her sponsors did not allow her to compete, fearing it would threaten the status quo. “Neil even attempted fighting this sexism legally but failed and never secured the opportunity to break the overall record, which was held by a man” Google said. A 1979 biopic about her life, titled Silent Victory: The Kitty O’Neil Story, recaps the impressive Alvord Desert feat.