Katharine Hepburn, Jiu-Jitsu Expert, All Around Awesome Lady

Illustration for article titled Katharine Hepburn, Jiu-Jitsu Expert, All Around Awesome Lady

In the battle of the Hepburns, it is usually the dainty Audrey who gets the most adulation, with her gamine face beaming from the walls of most teenage girls' bedrooms. Katharine has always been my preferred Hepburn — instead of playing the helpless and the flighty, Katharine generally portrayed ballsy dames with big shoulder pads and bigger attitudes. A collection of Katharine paraphernalia including letters, scrapbooks, and journals relating to her stage career reflects Hepburn's sassy spirit in life as well as on the screen. She even learned judo for a part in the George Bernard Shaw play The Millionairess, though GBS was afraid that the notoriously athletic Kate would beat the crap out of her co-star.

"I think it's dangerous for her to play the part," Shaw said. "Dangerous for the actor she's doing the judo with. She'll probably kill him."

Not only was her physical prowess amazing (Great Kate played tennis and swam for nearly all her 96 years), but she was also a supporter of Planned Parenthood almost from the womb. Her mother crusaded for suffrage and also for Margaret Sanger, and in 1981, Kate was speaking out in support of PP and its mission. "'It is imperative that I join Planned Parenthood," Kate said. "Sadly even today there are those who would completely destroy all of her tireless work and deprive all of us of our right to plan our families.'' The mealy-mouthed starlets of today could certainly take a lesson from Kate's outspoken example.


The Theatrical Katharine Hepburn, in Journals and Letters [New York Times]
Planned Parenthood Mourns the Loss of American Icon and Beloved Friend and Advocate Katharine Hepburn [Planned Parenthood]
The Return of the Helpless Girl [Time, 1967]

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Kate was the coolest. LOOOOOVE HER. Everyone must read Me, her autobiography. Although it may omit some details, it pulls very few punches.

She was part of the reason why I went to Bryn Mawr, I loved the fact that I could say I went to the same school as the great Kate. Just as an FYI, Bryn Mawr recently opened the Katherine Houghton Hepburn Center, named after both Kate and her mother (also a BMC alum), that honors those women of today who carry on the ideals of the Hepburns and offers programs to promote those causes, with an emphasis on community outreach. There are some really cool ladies being honored, just like the Kates would have liked it.