Exloring Kitty O’Neil’s Net Worth and the Cause of Her Death?


When the topic of conversation drifts towards motor racing and stunts, one name reverberates with a substantial impact – Kitty O’Neil. As an American stuntwoman and racer, she earned the moniker, “the fastest woman in the world.” In the realm of high-speed racing and death-defying stunts, Kitty carved out a space for herself. This article offers an in-depth exploration into Kitty’s life, career, and untimely demise.

Early Life and Personal Life

Born on March 24, 1946, in Corpus Christi, Texas, Kitty’s life was marked by adversity from an early age. Her father, an officer in the United States Army Air Forces, died in an airplane crash during her childhood. Her mother, Patsy Compton O’Neil, was a native Cherokee. Kitty, at five months old, battled multiple childhood diseases that culminated in a severe fever, causing her to lose her hearing. However, the fact that she was deaf didn’t impede her ambitious spirit.

In 1962, Kitty started training for diving under the guidance of coach Sammy Lee. She aimed to qualify for the 1964 Olympics, but her dreams were thwarted by a wrist fracture and a bout of spinal meningitis. This illness threatened her ability to walk and subsequently ended her contention for the Olympic diving team. Kitty then participated in the 100m backstroke and 100m freestyle swimming at the 1965 Summer Deaflympics. Her will to succeed was clearly strong; while one door had closed, another had opened.

Kitty’s Career: Stunts and Speed

Kitty was drawn to the exhilaration of speed, both on water and land. She took part in numerous races like the Baja 500 and Mint 400. It was during this period that she met stuntmen Hal Needham and Ron Hambleton, two figures who played pivotal roles in shaping her career in the stunt industry. Living with Hambleton for a period, she temporarily set racing aside.

In the mid-1970s, Kitty transitioned into stunt work, training with Needham, Hambleton, and Dar Robinson. By 1976, she had become the first woman to perform with Stunts Unlimited, the premier stunt agency at the time. Her pioneering spirit was clear, and she continually pushed the boundaries of what was possible.

Her career as a stuntwoman saw her performing a variety of stunts, from falls from great heights to car crashes. She notably performed stunts for shows such as The Bionic Woman and Wonder Woman, making a significant impact in Hollywood.

The World’s Fastest Woman

Kitty was not only renowned for her stunts, but also for her impressive racing feats. Despite her struggles with sponsors and certain contractual limitations, she managed to establish herself as a force to be reckoned with on the racing circuit.

Her most notable achievement came in 1976 when she set the land-speed record for female drivers. Kitty managed to attain a staggering average speed of 512.710 mph, with a peak speed of 621 mph, in a three-wheeled rocket car named “SMI Motivator”. This achievement led to her being recognized as “the fastest woman in the world,” a title that remained unchallenged until 2019.

Net Worth and Influence

In 2023, Kitty’s net worth was estimated to be around $4 million. Her wealth was primarily accumulated from her illustrious career in stunts and racing. Kitty’s net worth was substantial despite the challenges she faced in securing sponsorships during her racing career.

Her influence in the industry extended beyond her personal achievements. Kitty’s career as a stuntwoman and race driver led to her portrayal in a television movie and her representation as an action figure.

Kitty O’Neil’s Death

Kitty’s life was cut short on November 2, 2018, when she succumbed to pneumonia at the age of 72 in Eureka, South Dakota. Despite the brevity of her life, she left a long-lasting legacy. Her women’s absolute land speed record stood until 2019, over a year after her death, testament to her extraordinary achievements.


Kitty O’Neil, despite all the challenges she faced, soared beyond societal expectations and made a lasting impact in her chosen fields. Deafness did not hold her back, neither did the spinal meningitis that ended her early diving career. Instead, she chose to thrive, setting numerous speed records, and pioneering as a stuntwoman in Hollywood.

Kitty’s life serves as a powerful reminder of human resilience and the heights one can achieve with sheer determination and a passion for one’s craft. She continues to inspire many with her life’s story, encouraging them to never let adversities define their limits.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Who was Kitty O’Neil?

Kitty O’Neil was an American stuntwoman and racer known for her speed records and contributions to the film industry. Despite being deaf, she carved out a remarkable career in racing and Hollywood stunts.

2. What was Kitty O’Neil’s most notable achievement?

In 1976, Kitty set the land-speed record for female drivers, achieving an average speed of 512.710 mph, with a peak speed of 621 mph. This feat earned her the title of “the fastest woman in the world.”

3. How did Kitty O’Neil die?

Kitty O’Neil died of pneumonia in Eureka, South Dakota, on November 2, 2018, at the age of 72.

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