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Katharine Hepburn paved the way for women in Hollywood

An unforgettable voice made for a big part. Katharine Hepburn. What you see is what you get.

Unconventional. Unpredictable. Unflinching. She was ahead of her time and took on Hollywood her way, immortalizing what it means to be a woman. Relying on her beliefs over her beauty, Hepburn was a trailblazer for independent women everywhere.

In a prolific career that spanned over 60 years, she cultivated roles for strong female characters that reflected her fiery persona. She became an icon in a time when women were thought of as the inferior sex, but that didn’t stop Hepburn. She constantly challenged expectations of class and gender, not afraid to let her voice be heard.

A natural tomboy, she was the first woman to appear on screen in slacks — much to the studio’s dismay. When the costume department stole her pants, Hepburn walked around the set in her underwear in a declaration of strength. Today, she is hailed as the style icon who made menswear fashionable.

She played successful working women in many of her roles, illustrating the value in the relationship between equals in both comedies and dramas. Whether she was playing a high-powered lawyer, a professional athlete or a brash socialite, her spirit was like fire: burning up the scene, encompassing everything around her.

The American Film Institute ranked her the number one American female screen legend of all time. She holds the record for the most Oscar wins in the lead actress category with four Academy Awards. She represented empowerment for the women watching her at the time, which was so much more important than her accolades. She proved that women could do everything men could do, and be sexy doing it.

“As one goes through life, one learns that if you don’t paddle your own canoe, you don’t move.”

Hepburn proved her own point on personal power. She lived life on her own terms, not conceding to public opinion or trying to please anyone but herself — something from which I think today’s generation of young women can learn.

Poised with intelligence and self-assurance, Katharine Hepburn was the first lady of golden cinema whose ideals were as legendary as the woman herself.

Film Recommendations

Little Women (1933), The Philadelphia Story (1940), Adam’s Rib (1949), Desk Set (1957), Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967)

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