She was born in Southampton, England in 1955. She was a south of England sprint champion, and won the AAA's 200 metres in 1972 then the 400 metres in 1975. In 1977 she was U.K. 400 metres champion. In 1977 she married fellow athlete Bill Hartley. The marriage later ended in divorce.
In 1978, she won two Commonwealth gold medals in Edmonton, Canada, where she won the 400 metres, and the 4x400 relay. In 1979 she was European cup semi finalist winner in both 400, and 400 relay again. She also was runner up in European cup finals in 1975, and 1977 in 400, and 400 relay again.
After retiring from athletics Hartley married Robert Wass, better known as comedian and actor Bobby Knutt. As Donna Hartley-Wass, she competed for several years on the UK women's body building circuit, winning the National Amateur Body Building Association's "Miss Britain Physique" trophy in 1988, having placed third the previous year. Her bodybuilding career was short-lived and for several years after that she ran a Line Dancing School in Sheffield near the family home. Hartley-Wass featured on the front cover of Health & Strength Magazine.
Hartley trained at a Sheffield health studio jointly owned by Bobby Knutt . Under the guidance of the health studio owner & ex Sheffield Wednesday coach Tony Toms, Hartley achieved national success very quickly on the women's Bodybuilding circuit.
She died while sunbathing in her back garden on 7th June 2013, being discovered by her husband of 26 years.