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The Religious Affiliation of Actress
Katharine Hepburn


In an interview in the October 1991 Ladies' Home Journal that was advertised as her "most candid" ever, Hepburn said, "I'm an atheist, and that's it. I believe there's nothing we can know except that we should be kind to each other and do what we can for each other." p. 215. [Web Source: http://www.celebatheists.com/entries/atheist_17.html#2]

From: Anne Edwards, A Remarkable Woman: A Biography of Katharine Hepburn, William Morrow and Company: New York (1985), page 27:

Katharine Martha Houghton, Katharine Hepburn's mother, had been orphaned along with her two younger sisters when she was thirteen. The Houghtons, a rich and socially prominent family, had founded the Corning Glass Works. The girls were assured a certain income and the home and the protection of their wealthy uncle, Amory Bigelow Houghton. This meant moving from Buffalo, New York, to Boston, Massachusetts...

Kit [i.e., the actress Katharine Hepburn's mother] grew into a tall, startling, dark-haired beauty, strong willed, haughty, an aristocratic young woman of such independent ideas that she constantly puzzled and shocked her conservative uncle. Kit believed that tradition was numbing, liked nothing better than a good argument on politics (considered a taboo subject for women in the 1890s), and insisted tht she and her sisters... be allowed to fulfill their mother's wish and attend Bryn Mawr College.

From: "Religious Affiliations of Celebrities" page in "Celebrity Religion" section of "Religion Facts" website (http://www.religionfacts.com/celebrities/religions_of_celebrities.htm; viewed 20 April 2007):

Below is an index of the religious affiliations or belief systems of celebrities (both living and dead; in film, television, music, literature, academics and politics), listed in alphabetical order by last name...

Celebrity: Katharine Hepburn

Religion/Belief: Atheism

Quotes, More Information, Sources:
"I'm an atheist, and that's it. I believe there's nothing we can know except that we should be kind to each other and do what we can for people" - Ladies' Home Journal, October 1991

Edwards, pages 28-29:
Norval Thomas Hepburn [the actress Katharine Hepburn's father] was born in 1879 in Hanover County, Virginia... where his father, the Reverend Sewell S. Hepburn, originally from Missouri, had come to be an Episcopal clergyman. Of Scottish descent, the Hepburns could trace their ancestry back to James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell, third husband of Mary, Queen of Scots. "Tom" Hepburn had graduated from Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Virginia, and, in 1901 when he met Kit Houghton, was a graduate student at John Hopkins Medical School in Baltimore. A big, brawny, red-headed young man with a booming Southern voice... Tom Hepburn was so much an original that Kit told her sister just after having been introduced to him--"That's the one!"

...Uncle Amory was never keen on the idea of a marriage between his niece and Tom Hepburn, the profession of medicine [Tom was studying to become a doctor] being considered only a mite more respectable than being in trade. True, the Hepburns were a genteel family, but they were not an old rich, influential family. The Reverend Sewell S. Hepburn was a country preacher... Nonetheless, in 1904, after Kit had earned a master's degree at Radcliffe and Tom had returned from Germany to take up an internship at Hartford Hospital, they were wed...

Edwards, page 37:
The Hepburn children [including young Katharine Hepburn] were never asked to leave a room no matter what the topic of conversation. Kathy sat in the parlor and listened to... women of radical ideas--in ardent discussions on venereal disease, prostitution and the use of contraceptives, as well as heated political debates and medical specifics on Dr. Hepburn's cases. Mrs. Hepburn, now president of the Connecticut Women's Suffrage Association, believed that if you weren't forthright with your children about sex, they would not confide in you. When Kathy asked her mother about her own birth, Mrs. Hepburn explained it to her "scientifically and specifically."

"Oh, then I can have a baby without getting married," Kathy replied. "That's what I shall do!"

Nudism and fake modesty were among the topics the Hepburns discussed often and openly. Their oldest daughter listened to these conversations and thought, "Some day nobody is going to wear any clothes." What bothered her most was her overabundance of freckles that covered her from head to toe. Fearing that because of them no one would want her, she confessed this worry to her father. "I want to tell you something, Kathy, and you must never forget it," he replied. "Jesus Christ, Alexander the Great and Leonardo da Vinci all had red hair and freckles, and they did all right."

Toward the end of her life, Katharine Hepburn believed that religion and ethics were important, but epistomologically she appeared to be agnostic. From: Edwards, page 394:
Marion and Peggy [Katharine Hepburn's sisters, circa 1977] had matured into serious-minded women. But when Kate was with them, they regained their youthful spirit and sense of fun. Kate had always been and remained a strong-willed, opinionated woman, hard to win a point from in a heated discussion. She believed that standards must be passed from one generation to the next, and none of her nieces or nephews was spared her views. God "was a concept too vast for her mind to consider," but she believed in "the lessons of Jesus Christ" despite her feeling, shared with Marx, that "religion was a sop for the masses."
Edwards, page 40:
Theater and films interested her [young Katharine Hepburn], and she idolized the cowboy star William S. Hart. In order to go to his movies and purchase fan magazines with his photographs in it, she cut lawns and shoveled snow. At eight years of age, she dramatized Uncle Tom's Cabin, cast it with neighborhood children and presented it in the tiny theater Dr. Hepburn had built for her in the backyard...

The group's [Katharine and her friends] prime achievement was their fund-raising presentation of Beauty and the Beast. The plight of the Navaho Indians in New Mexico had long been an object of Mrs. Hepburn's [Katharine's mother] compassion and she was responsible for bringing Bishop Howden of New Mexico as a guest speaker to a local church in Old Saybrook. The bishop's description of poverty among the Navahos was so moving that Kathy decided her group should stage a benefit performance.

Katharine Hepburn's brother apparently committed suicide at the age of 15. Katharine irrationally became convinced that his death by hanging was an accident that happened while he was playing a prank. Edwards, pages 43-44:
Kathy became obsessed with the need to absolve her brother from the taint of suicide. Perhaps, too, the questions that remained if Tom had taken his own life were too painful for her to probe...

Tom's premature death had severe and long-lasting aftereffects on Kathy. A depression set in, her schoolwork suffered and she found the company of her peers even more difficult.

Edwards, pages 45-46:
The Hepburns moved... [to] West Hartford, in the autum of 1921... With the appointment of Kit's cousin, Alanson B. Houghton, as the first ambassador to Germany since before the war, newspaper society columns printed with much frequency Alanson and his wife Adelaide's social achievements...

By her fifteenth birthday, young men were queuing at the Hepburn door, and the doctor would glare down reprovingly at each from the top of the wide, curving staircase in the house... About this time, Kathy brought a Catholic boy home. "Oh, with what chill politeness my father made him welcome," she alter recalled. "Some days I'd go with him to mass--not that I'd go inside his church--I wasn't that brave. I'd sit on the steps outside and wait for him. Somehow my father would just happen to drive by every time I was sitting on those Catholic steps waiting and he'd smile at me and keep on driving. Pretty soon that boy and I just seemed to drift apart."

"Your beaux are the dullest I have ever known!" he informed his daughter, avoiding a direct reply after she had accused him backhandedly of possible prejudice toward Catholicism. And to his wife, he added, "If she marries any of them, it's going to be hell!"

Edwards, pages 63-64:
On December 12, 1928, she [Katharine Hepburn] and Luddy [Ludlow Ogden Smith] were married with a good deal of unexplained secrecy by her grandfather Hepburn, the oldest Episcopalian minister in the state of Virginia, at the West Hartford home of her parents...

"We've had some nuts in the family," Hepburn later recalled. "My grandfather [the Episcopalian minister] was one. He never owned a toothbrush. He'd say he didn't want to become dependent upon anything. So he cleaned his teeth with the same soap and washcloth he used for the rest of his toilet."

...Marriage, Kate frequently said (and continued to say), was not a natural state...

Edwards, page 148:
With the finish of Mary of Scotland in the spring of 1936, Kate returned East to Fenwick for a month and Ford [film director John Ford] pursued her. They sailed on the Long Island Sound and played highly competitive golf matches at the nearby country club. Neither could stand losing to the other. They went to New York and spent time with Laura and Luddy [by now Luddy had divorced from Katharine Hepburn, but they had always been mainly friends, and their marriage was widely suspected of being platonic], much to Ford's displeasure, then they returned to Fenwick. Dr. Hepburn [Katherine's father] had not been too keen on the young Irish Catholic boy Kate had been enamored of as a young girl. Ford impressed him little better. [John Ford was one of the world' most successful film directors, but he was widely known to be a Catholic, and Dr. Hepburn strongly disliked Catholics.] As far as Dr. Hepburn was concerned, Ford was a philandering married man using Kate poorly. By summer, the romance had diminished.
Edwards, pages 168-169:
...1938... Kate had never met Spencer Tracy, but she had seen all his films and claimed, by her count, to have sat through Captains Courageous fifty-two times... Spencer Tracy's problems were not likely to disappear. A Catholic who did not believe in divorce, a husband who was no longer in love with the wife he respected more than any other woman... Spencer Tracy felt desperately alone. So did Kate. But when such feelings overhwelmed her, she headed home to her father's house.
Edwards, page 190:
Spencer Bonaventure Tracy had been born with the twentieth century in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to fairly prosperous middle-class parents. A staunch Catholic with an unquenchable thirst for hard liquor, John Tracy was general sales manager of the Sterling Motor Truck Company. Young Spencer admired his father's virile personality, but his mother--Caroline Brown Tracy, whose ancestors could be traced back to settlers in the colonies before the Revolution--drew his greatest love and respect... At sixteen, while attending a Jesuit school--Marquette Academy--he felt called to the priesthood.

"You know how it is in a place like that," he later told a close friend. "The influence is strong, very strong, intoxicating. The priests are all such superior men--heroes. You want to be like them--we alll did. Every guy in the school probably thought some--more or less--about trying for the cloth. You lie in the dark and see yourself as Monsignor Tracy, Cardinal Tracy, Bishop Tracy, Archbishop--I"m getting gooseflesh! Everytime I play a priest--and I've done my share . . . everytime I put on the clothes and the collar I feel right, right away. Like they were mine, like I belonged in them, and that feeling of being--what's the world?--an intermediary--is always very appealing. Those were always my most comfortable parts. . . ."

...Tracy was to play a priest in four films: San Francisco (1936), Boy's Town (1938), Men of Boy's Town (1941) and The Devil at Four O'Clock (1961).

Edwards, page 348:
The public reacted in a manner that might have surprised Tracy. Yes, of course, a Mrs. Spencer Tracy existed, but she and her husband had not lived together for nearly thirty years. And--hadn't it been admirable, noble really, of the two stars to so respect the covenants of Tracy's Catholic faith? In fact, only two days after the funeral [of Spencer Tracy], Charles Champlin of the Los Angeles Times called their liaison " remarkable legacy..."
Edwards, page 215:
From the moment that Kate [Katharine Hepburn] and Tracy [Spencer Tracy] faced each other before the cameras, their sexual awareness of one another transferred itself onto the screen. On the surface, they upheld the theory that opposites attract . . . the hard-drinking Irishman and the Yankee lady from hartford who was stronger and more outspoken than a woman was supposed to be... how much alike they really were--both being private people, intellectuals with large and educated appetites for almost everything from food to sports to politics. Both had wit and humor, loved nothing more than a good fight, stood for no nonsense, could not abide sycophants and flatterers. Both were Democrats, admireed President Roosevelt with almost religious awe, had outrageous egos, loved their work...
Edwards, page 221:
In some ways, the relationship [between Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy] bore a strong likeness to Kate's marriage to Luddy... There were positive aspects of the relationship for Kate, who feared marriage, wanted no children, and felt of superior mind, will and stamina to most of the men in her world. Tracy's outpokenness, his intelligence, his quick wit and deliberate nature--the pure maleness of his personality--attracted Kate. She respected his talent, thought him wise and uniquely fair, a man a woman could trust. His staunch loyalty to Louise [his wife] overshadowed his chauvinistic attitude toward all women, Kate included. She admired his dedication to the principles of his religion in the same way she did her father's dedication to the principles of his oath to medicine.
From: Bill Davidson, Spencer Tracy: Tragic Idol, E.P. Dutton: New York, NY (1987), page 214:
The following March [in 1968, after her staunchly Catholic boyfriend of 25 years, Spencer Tracy, died], she [Katharine Hepburn] won her third Oscar for The Lion in Winter. Like Tracy, she had come up with two statues in consecutive years.

Still mourning, she spoke as if Tracy were still alive.

"Spencer will be very, very pleased," she said.

Edwards, page 224:
Humphrey Bogart once said that Kate [Katharine Hepburn] was an expert on subjects as diverse as St. Thomas Aquinas's Summa Theologica and the spreading of manure on diochronda.
Edwards, page 340:
Once Kate [Katharine Hepuburn] started talking, she could hardly be stopped. "...We're living in very odd times, you know. We insist on knowing everything about everything. What the dickens, are you going to accept only what you know? What bout the mystery of life? . . . religion? . . . sex?... are you going to allow your own imagination a little more free range? . . . Is it the man's walk, or the spring of his walk, the lift in his walk, that intrigues you? We are becoming so literal minded. . . . I think disillusioned authors are destroying the sex act."
Edwards, pages 319-320:
According to Larry Swindell, [Spencer Tracy's] biographer, he had a deep dislike of homosexuals and any form of perversion. Yet, in a McCall's article, Garson Kanin claimed that Kate refused to acknowledge the existence of homosexuality at all, and that in a Paris hotel suite in 1961, he and Tracy described homosexual acts in laborious detail to Kate, "who maintainted her firm disbelief in the existence of such ridiculous practices." (Curiously, the magazine article is represented as an excerpt from Kanin's subsequent memoir, Tracy and Hepburn [Viking Press, 1971], but it does not appear in the text of the book.) How Tracy could describe acts so supposedly offensive to him is as difficult to comprehend as Kate's presumed refusal to believe homoexuality existed in the face of her many friendships (Noel Coward, to name just one) with self-proclaimed practicing homosexuals and the open manner in which all sexual matters were discussed in the Hepburn home during her youth...

Swindell says he "refrained from including these facts in this his book, Spencer Tracy, A Biography, out of respect to Louise Tracy, who was still alive at the time of publication."

Edwards, pages 332-333:
A kind of deification clung to Louise. Those close to her are ready to vow that there had een no man in her life except [Spencer] Tracy and that she accepted Kate [Katharine Hepburn's] presence in his life with "continuing good grace." Until 1962, on occasion, she and Tracy were still photographed together for the purposes of publicizing the John Tracy Clinic, and his name remained on the letterhead, although he had nothing more to do with the organization than to encourage and finance Louis in her work--in which her absorption was total. The only social affairs she attended were those connected with raising funds for the clinic or in celebration of an award she might have been given.

Tracy had been deified in another way. Fellow actor David Niven called him "the Pope" and the name stuck. More and more, his whims had become law. ON the set, no one dared eat or play cards while a scene was being shot.

Edwards, page 390:
Presumably, Kate [Katharine Hepburn] chose this play because of her admiration for the elderly playwright and author... A Matter of Gravity was portentous and ponderous and the characters unlikely and disagreeable except for the eccentric Mrs. Basil, "the old lady of the mansion"... A new cook-housekeeper named Dubois enters Mrs. Basil's world and the grandson she has doted on brings home four dubious friends. The woman who has feared change and death, who did not believe in God, nor the breaking down of class distinctions, suddenly witnesses a miracle. "She sees, with her own eyes, Dubois rise in the air as stately as a zeppelin, and bounce off the ceiling with plaster in her hair. Now she knows, as she says incomprehensibly: 'If only there were a mystery it would be the ladder to all mysteries.'"
Edwards, pages 408-409:
[circa 1984] Her [Katharine Hepburn's] work for Planned Parenthood had, in fact, been taking up a great deal of her time. Mailings carrying her name and soliciting funds had been sent out by the hundreds of thousands, and they had brought her a rush of unpleasant letters and numerous threats. "Things are getting wordse," she told one interviewer. "Now they've even changed the rules about when a fetus is alive--although I've never seen a religious service for a miscarriage, have you?" To another writer, she confessed: "I was always a bit on the outside because I belonged to a small element of society who thought they were better than others because of their beliefs--they were out to help people who were victims of idiotic attitudes. When some local girl got pregnant, she would have the baby in our house if she had no place to go.

"I loved it at Bryn Mawr without any boys," she admitted, "and I cannot understand our current co-educational system! What do you expect young people to do when they're sleeping in the same corridor?"

...In 1984, a national survey elicited answers from forty-five hudnred teenagers as to whom they would name as their ten contemporary heroes. The survey-taker were stunned that Katharine Hepburn's name appeared in the number-seven slot, the only woman on a list that included such names as Michael Jackson, Clint Eastwood and the Pope. In fact, Kate was a notch above the Pope. Somehow she had broken down the barriers of age and sex. The Woman of the Year had become a kind of guru.

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