Katharine HEPBURN

Family tree of Katharine HEPBURN


AmericanBorn Katharine Houghton HEPBURN

American actress of film, stage, and television

Born on May 12, 1907 in Hartford, Connecticut, USA , United States

Died on June 29, 2003 in Fenwick, Old Saybrook, Connecticut, USA

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Hepburn was born in Hartford, Connecticut, the second of six children. Her parents were Katharine Martha Houghton (1878–1951), a feminist who headed the Connecticut Woman Suffrage Association and later fought for birth control with Margaret Sanger, and Thomas Norval Hepburn (1879–1962), a urologist at Hartford Hospital. Katharine Martha instilled in her daughter the virtues of perseverance, independence and fortitude, teaching that women were equal to men. As a child, Hepburn joined her mother on several "Votes For Women" demonstrations. Thomas Hepburn helped establish the New England Social Hygiene Association, which aimed to educate the public about venereal disease. The Hepburn children were raised to exercise freedom of speech, and encouraged to think and debate on any topic they wished. Her parents were criticized by the community for their progressive views, which biographer Charles Higham believes stimulated Hepburn to fight against barriers she encountered in life. Hepburn said she realized from a young age that she was the product of "two very remarkable parents", and credited her upbringing with providing the foundation for her success. She remained close to her family throughout her life.

The young Hepburn was a tomboy who liked to call herself Jimmy and cut her hair short like a boy's. Thomas Hepburn was eager for his children to use their minds and bodies to the limit, and taught them to swim, run, dive, ride, wrestle, and play golf and tennis. Golf became a passion for his oldest daughter: she took daily lessons and became very good, reaching the semi-final of the Connecticut Young Women's Golf Championship. She loved swimming in Long Island Sound, and took ice-cold baths every morning—generally believing that "the bitterer the medicine, the better it was for you." Hepburn was a fan of movies from a young age, and went to see one every Saturday night. With her friends and siblings, she would put on plays and perform to her neighbors for 50 cents a ticket to raise money for the Navajo people.


On April 3, 1921, while visiting friends in Greenwich Village, Hepburn discovered the body of her older brother Tom, whom she adored, dead from an apparent suicide. He had tied a sheet around a beam and hanged himself. The Hepburn family denied it was suicide and maintained that Tom's death must have been an experiment that had gone wrong. The incident made the teenage Hepburn nervous, moody and suspicious of people. She shied away from other children, dropped out of Oxford School, and began receiving private tutoring. For many years, she used Tom's birthday (November 8) as her own. It was not until her 1991 autobiography, Me: Stories of My Life, that Hepburn revealed her true birth date.

In 1924, Hepburn gained a place at Bryn Mawr College. She attended the institution primarily to satisfy her mother, who had studied there, and recalled disliking the experience. It was the first time she had been in school in several years, and she was self-conscious and uncomfortable with her classmates. She struggled with the scholastic demands of university, and was once suspended for smoking in her room. Hepburn was drawn to acting but roles in college plays were conditional on good grades. Once her marks had improved, she began performing regularly. The lead role in a production of The Woman in the Moon in her senior year, and the positive response it received, cemented Hepburn's plans to pursue a theatrical career. She graduated with a degree in history and philosophy in June 1928.

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Geographical origins

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