15 January 2014

No smoking, Katharine!

In 1924, Katharine Hepburn entered Bryn Mawr College. It was her mother's Alma Mater and Katharine attended the college mainly to please her mother. Having been tutored privately for years (following the suicide of her brother Tom), Katharine was very self-conscious and felt ill at ease with her classmates. The first semesters at the university proved to be difficult for her. It was, however, at Bryn Mawr College that Katharine discovered her love of acting. After a difficult start, the college theatre managed to get her out of her shell. In her senior year, in 1928, Katharine played the leading role in the production of "The Woman in the Moon", and it was this role that made her want to pursue an acting career.

Left photo: 1928, Katharine Hepburn's yearbook photo at Bryn Mawr College

On 20 October 1927, Marion Edwards Park (President of Bryn Mawr College) wrote the following letter to Katharine Hepburn, after she had been seen smoking in her room. Katharine was consequently suspended for five days.

October 20th, 1927

My dear Miss Hepburn,

In view of your failure to keep the regulation which forbids a student to smoke in her college room, the Bryn Mawr Association of Self Government has asked me to notify you of your suspension from the college halls and from all college exercises from Sunday October 23rd at noon to the evening of Friday October 28th. Your absences from classes during the week will be regarded by the college as though they were unexcused cuts.

I am sorry that you have disregarded a restriction which has been established as a matter of common agreement among the students and which, dealing as it does with conditions in large buildings filled with casual people and inflammable things, must have the support of your own common sense if you give it thought. 
I am sending a copy of this letter to your father in order that he may understand your return home at this time.

Sincerely yours,

Marion Edwards Park

Miss Katharine Hepburn

Pembroke West

Source: "Me. Stories of My Life" by Katharine Hepburn

Note: In her autobiography, Katharine Hepburn states she wasn't a smoker at the time and didn't know about the smoking regulations. According to her, somebody had given her a box of perfumed cigarettes and she just wanted to try one. Apparently someone passed her open door, saw her smoke the perfumed cigarette and reported her to the school's administration.

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