As a kid, I would watch any movie with Katharine Hepburn. I guess I never really thought about why I liked her movies. It is only now looking back on it that I realize she always played spunky no-nonsense women, the kind of women I wanted to be. She played Jo March on screen (one of my literary heroines), matched tempers with John Wayne, Humphrey Bogart, and Peter O’Toole, and stood opposite Cary Grant and Spencer Tracy in some of Hollywood’s best comedies. She earned four Academy Awards, the most by any person.

Off-screen she was just as impressive. She eschewed Hollywood glamour for trousers and wore little make-up. She avoided personal questions from the press and often expressed unpopular opinions. At one point early in her career she was actually voted “Box Office Poison.”

In an effort to re-launch her career, she starred on Broadway in a play written specifically for her, The Philadelphia Story. She had the foresight to purchase the movie rights to the play, allowing her to cast herself in the film and giving her a certain measure of control over production. The movie was a huge hit.

Katharine Hepburn did not change the world by making some amazing discovery or overcoming huge trials, but on and off screen she was the role model of a self-assured woman who did not need to be rescued by the hero and always stood up for what she believed. My daughter’s middle name was selected partly in homage to her.

-Caroline Alderman

For more information, check out Katharine Hepburn’s filmography.

Visit us tomorrow to learn about a heroine who survived the Holocaust by fighting back.

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