Katharine Houghton Hepburn (May 12, 1907 – June 29, 2003) was an American actress of film, stage and television.
Known for her headstrong independence and spirited personality, Hepburn's career as a Hollywood leading lady spanned more than 60 years.
Her work came in a range of genres, from screwball comedy to literary drama, and she received four Academy Awards for Best Actress—a record for any performer.
Hepburn's characters were often strong, sophisticated women with a hidden vulnerability.
Raised in Connecticut by wealthy, progressive parents, Hepburn began to act while studying at Bryn Mawr College.
After four years in the theatre, favorable reviews of her work on Broadway brought her to the attention of Hollywood.
Her early years in the film industry were marked with success, including an Academy Award for her third picture, Morning Glory (1933), but this was followed by a series of commercial failures.
Hepburn masterminded her own comeback, buying out her contract with RKO Radio Pictures and acquiring the film rights to The Philadelphia Story, which she sold on the condition that she be the star.
In the 1940s she was contracted to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, where her career focused on an alliance with Spencer Tracy.
The screen partnership spanned 25 years, and produced nine movies.
Hepburn challenged herself in the latter half of her life, as she regularly appeared in Shakespeare stage productions and tackled a range of literary roles.
She found a niche playing middle-aged spinsters, such as in The African Queen (1951), a persona the public embraced.
Three more Oscars came for her work in Guess Who's Coming To Dinner (1967), The Lion In Winter (1968) and On Golden Pond (1981).
In the 1970s she began appearing in television movies, which became the focus of her career in later life.
She remained active into old age, making her final screen appearance in 1994 at the age of 87.
After a period of inactivity and ill-health, Hepburn died in 2003 at 96.
Hepburn famously shunned the Hollywood publicity machine, and refused to conform to societal expectations of women.
She was outspoken, assertive, athletic and wore pants before it was fashionable.
She married once, as a young woman, but thereafter lived independently.
A 26-year affair with her co-star Spencer Tracy was hidden from the public.
With her unconventional lifestyle and the independent characters she brought to the screen, Hepburn came to epitomise the "modern woman" in 20th-century America and helped change perceptions of women.
In 1999, she was named by the American Film Institute as the top female Hollywood legend.
Hepburn was born in Hartford, Connecticut, the second of six children.
Her parents were Thomas Norval Hepburn (1879–1962), a urologist at Hartford Hospital and Katharine Martha Houghton (1878–1951), a feminist author.
Both individuals fought for social change in America: Thomas Hepburn helped establish the New England Social Hygiene Association, which educated the public about venereal disease, while Katharine Martha headed the Connecticut Women's Suffrage Association and fought for birth control with Margaret Sanger.
As a child, Hepburn joined her mother on several "Votes For Women" demonstrations.
The Hepburn children were raised to exercise freedom of speech and encouraged to think and debate on any topic they wished.
Her parents were criticised by the community for their progressive views, which stimulated Hepburn to fight against barriers she encountered.
Hepburn said she realised from a young age that she was the product of "two very remarkable parents" and credited her "enormously lucky" upbringing with providing the foundation for her success.
She remained close to her family throughout her life. Wikipedia.