Katherine Hepburn and I have a lot in common. Not only do our names have some of the same letters in them, we also both almost went blind while acting. She famously fell into a Venice canal multiple times for a shoot, which caused a series eye infection that she struggled with for the rest of her life. I was randomly in a transportation commercial a few weekends ago when I was visiting BrownEyedJude and somehow managed to hurt my eye, leading to a swollen eye requiring antibiotics and 2 days of a weird puffy eye. See? Totally the same. I will take anything that puts Katherine Hepburn and I in the same category.
Growing up, like any good theater kid, I was obsessed with old movies (shocking, right?). Of course I had no context so I didn’t realize that the strong, independent women that I gravitated towards in these movies were an anomaly. Lauren Bacall and Katherine Hepburn frequently played women who were not stereotypical. They wore pants (GASP), smoked cigarettes (gross but still mindblowing for the time), and generally did what they wanted.
You could be asking why I am featuring yet another actress in our public service ladies blog. For me, groundbreaking actresses portraying independent women who refuse the “traditional” gender roles have an enormous impact in changing people’s ideas and open doors for women to express themselves in their own fields. Not only that but Ms. Hepburn openly supported access to birth control and abortions when birth control was frowned upon and abortions were illegal.
In addition, most people don’t realize that she was aggressively opposed to the McCarthyism that swept Hollywood in the 1940s. She was active in the Committee for the First Amendment, a group that supported the Hollywood Ten, ten individuals who were cited for contempt by Congress after refusing to answer questions about their supposed involvement with the Communist Party.
If you aren’t already a fan, I encourage you to watch Katherine in “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” or “The African Queen” or “The Philadelphia Story”. You’ll feel empowered and inspired.