Gladys Hartley was born in Winnipeg in 1921. Her young life as a dancer, roller skater, and figure skater established her future excellence in artistic sport. Moving out to Vancouver in 1952 with her husband and young daughter, Hartley would change the artistic landscape on the West Coast from the 1950s to the 1980s.

In the early 1960s, Hartley became involved in the development side of sports, once her daughter became active in gymnastics. She was a pioneer builder of one of the largest, oldest, and most successful gymnastics clubs in Canada, the Flicka Gymnastics Club in North Vancouver. As head coach, judge, choreographer, and interpreter of world and Olympic compulsory routines, Hartley and her assistant coaches rapidly advanced athletes to national and international prominence at the Pan American, world, and Olympic levels from 1963-76. During this time the club produced ten national or provincial champions.

The wealth of knowledge and leadership Hartley brought to the sport enhanced its development not only in BC, but across Canada. Hartley generously shared all she knew with other coaches, helping put the province on the international gymnastics map. At the time there was no head office for the BC Gymnastics Association which was run entirely by volunteers. The regular visits by international teams as well as clinics and meets all over the province were largely dependent on the organization and planning of Hartley.

Hartley was highly respected for her fair treatment of all athletes. Athletes felt it was a great honour to work with her because her artistic ideas would always bring a special flair and higher scores to their routines. Her attention to helping all gymnasts made Hartley first choice as provincial coach over many years, and it was a role the Canadian Gymnastics Federation noticed. Hartley was invited to travel with the national team to England, Cuba, Israel, and Scandinavia throughout the early 1970s.

In 1975, Hartley was named as lifetime member of the Canadian Gymnastics Federation for her enormous impact on the sport. Even in retirement Hartley still maintained an interest and passion for gymnastics and regularly attended the Flicka awards banquet and their annual gym display.