Why Katharine?

When my mother found out she was pregnant the first time, she knew immediately that it was a girl. My father was amused. Nobody could know the sex of a baby until it was born, so this must be just one more piece of evidence for the foolishness of women.

Katharine Hepburn
Katharine Hepburn

“What if it turns out to be a boy?” asked the gum-chewing clerk at the fabric store while cutting two yards of pink cotton for rompers with embroidered bunnies and sunsuits with appliquéd ducks. “But it isn’t a boy,” said my mother, “because it’s a girl.”

“Many people buy yellow,” said the frilly sales lady at Sears where my mother was picking out a bassinet with a pink liner. “But for a girl, they buy pink” said my mother, and then she went to the baby clothes department and bought a pink receiving blanket.

On to the craft store, where she bought a skein of white yarn for a little hat and baby booties along with enough pink for tassels. “But how can you know it’s going to be a girl?” asked the grandmother type as she rang up the sale. “I just know,” said my mother.

My mother, my logical no-nonsense mother, just knew I would be a girl.

When I was minus six months old, my mother named me Susan, and she called me Susan, or Susie, for the next three months until my cousin was born. My aunt had had no illogical nonsensical intimations of her baby’s sex until it turned out to be she—and was named Susan.

My mother had a temper tantrum.

One day when I was minus two months old, she was futzing around with Mary (too religious, too popular), Barbara (it means stranger, not good for someone’s daughter), Jacqueline (would I be called Jack?), Elizabeth (again, too religious, and sorta silly) when she suddenly doubled over with the first pain of childbirth. Two months early. On the way to the hospital, in between spasms, she took a deep breath and announced with great conviction, “Katharine Hepburn. Yes, name her Katharine.”

So it was that I was named after one of the most beautiful, intelligent and liberated women in America.