One of the world's most honored actresses, Katharine Hepburn, star of such beloved films as "The African Queen" and "the Philadelphia Story", has died.

She died Sunday at age 96 at her home in Old Saybrook, Connecticut of an undisclosed illness. She had been in poor health for several years, suffering from Parkinson's disease and severe memory loss.

With her distinctive New England accent and chiseled beauty, Hepburn specialized in playing strong no-nonsense women in parts ranging from tough lawyers and dignified queens to flirtatious debutantes in lighthearted slapstick comedy.

Hepburn said she planned to be a doctor, but stumbled into acting, making her professional stage debut in 1928. It led to her first of 43 films, 1932's "A Bill of Divorcement."

The following year, she won the first of her record four Best Actress Oscars (Academy Awards), playing a tomboy in "Morning Glory." Her other Oscars were for "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, "The Lion in Winter," and "On Golden Pond."

Many of Hepburn's films show up lists of Hollywood's greatest movies, including "Philadelphia Story," "Adam's Rib," and "Woman of the Year." She was nominated for 12 Oscars.

Hepburn also starred in several Broadway productions and television films, and wrote her best-selling autobiography in 1991 titled "Me."

Offstage, Hepburn was an unapologetic advocate of women's rights and various social causes.

She made her final film in 1994 and spent her last years in quiet retirement.