Feminist Acting Legend Katharine Hepburn Dies

Acting legend Katharine Hepburn, who lived her life as a trailblazing feminist, died yesterday at her home in Connecticut at age 96. Hepburn’s acting career spanned more than 60 years – she won four Oscars and was nominated for a dozen others, a record surpassed only this year by Meryl Streep. The American Film Institute recently named Hepburn the top female screen legend, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Hepburn, whose mother was a suffragist and a vocal advocate for birth control, became a role model for the outspoken, independent woman. “I was totally unaware that we were the second-rate sex,” Hepburn once said of women, as reported by the BBC. “I was a success because of the times I lived in,” she told the Times in 1991. “My style of personality became the style. I was sort of the New Woman at a very early point.”

Hepburn began wearing pants in the 1930s, something that was then considered quite unsuitable for women. Her fashion preference became so influential that the Council of Fashion Designers of America awarded her a lifetime achievement award in 1986. “I realized long ago that skirts are hopeless,” she said in her 1993 television autobiography, as reported by the New York Times. “Anytime I hear a man say he prefers a woman in a skirt, I say: ‘Try one. Try a skirt.'”

“She is the person who put women in pants, literally and figuratively. She is the greatest star, the greatest actress that Hollywood has ever produced,” wrote her biographer Christopher Andersen, as reported by Guardian Unlimited. “She really was the last of that breed of Hollywood royalty. And she was by far the greatest.”

Lights on Broadway will dim at 8 p.m. tomorrow in her honor.

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LA Times 6/30/03; Guardian Unlimited 6/30/03; Boston Globe 6/30/03; BBC 6/30/03; NY Times 6/30/03

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