Biography (Dictionary of World Biography: Twentieth Century)
Article abstract: With a career spanning most of the twentieth century, Katharine Hepburn has, from her early career days, embodied wit, independence, and charm to the American public. Hepburn was one of the first actresses to break down Hollywood’s stereotype of women, and she has served as a model of grit and beauty throughout her career.
Katharine Houghton Hepburn was born on May 12, 1907 (despite conflicting reports that have dogged her since her first Hollywood film), the second of the six children of Katharine “Kit” Hepburn and Thomas Hepburn. Her mother was part of a well-known New England family, the Houghtons. Encouraged by her dying mother to acquire an education for herself and her sisters, Kit Houghton eventually earned a bachelor’s degree from Bryn Mawr (1899) and a master’s degree from Radcliffe (1900). Houghton’s upbringing encouraged her to value independence, education, and social responsibility, three qualities that dominated her life. Because of her mother’s interests, Katharine Hepburn had a childhood that was characterized by her family’s deep involvement in many social causes of the day: the suffrage movement, the presence of brothels in their home city of Hartford and the associated spread of venereal disease, and the efforts to provide safe birth control to women (the latter cause was ably headed by Margaret Sanger, a friend of the Hepburns.) The Hepburn family’s...
(The entire section is 2029 words.)
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