This issuance in the Legends of Hollywood series honors Katharine Hepburn, one of America’s most fascinating and enduring film stars. Her stamp will go on sale May 12, her birthday, 11 am, at the Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center, Old Saybrook.
Born on May 12, 1907, in Hartford, Katharine Houghton Hepburn was the second child and oldest daughter of Dr. Thomas N. Hepburn, a surgeon, and Katharine Houghton, an advocate for women’s rights. Her progressive and freethinking parents contributed greatly to the development of Katharine’s bold and adventurous outlook on life. They encouraged her to take risks, speak her mind, and challenge convention: “I was taught,” she said, “not to be afraid of anything.”
Like her mother before her, Katharine went to Bryn Mawr College, near Philadelphia. While there, she fell in love with acting, and soon after her graduation in 1928, she headed to Baltimore and then Manhattan to pursue a career on the stage. Her father was “heartsick over the fact that I wanted to act,” she wrote many years later in her autobiography, Me: Stories of My Life. Nevertheless, she had made up her mind. With her freckles, mass of red hair, preference for wearing trousers, Katharine stood out in Hollywood.
Over the course of her career, Katharine made more than 40 motion pictures, receiving 12 Academy Award nominations for Best Actress and won four Oscars, and an Emmy.
Katharine’s long, illustrious career-and perhaps even more, her independent personality-inspired three generations of Americans. She was, in particular, a role model for women who chose to live life on their own terms. In the words of her niece Katharine Houghton, she “provided hope and inspiration and courage for a whole new generation of women.”
Katharine Hepburn died on June 29, 2003, at her home in Fenwick, CT. On September 9, 2006, Bryn Mawr College officially opened the Katharine Houghton Hepburn Center to recognize her achievements, as well as those of her activist mother, and to challenge “women to lead publicly engaged lives and to take on important and timely issues affecting women.”
The stamp portrait is a publicity still from the film Woman of the Year (MGM, 1942) by photographer Clarence S. Bull.