She received the 2013 Katharine Hepburn Medal on Thursday night in a ceremony at the women’s liberal arts school in suburban Philadelphia.
Smith is recognized as a rock ‘n’ roll trailblazer whose work as a musician, writer, performer and visual artist influenced multiple generations. Her 1975 debut album, “Horses,” is considered one of rock’s greatest albums and she received the 2010 National Book Award for non-fiction for her memoir, “Just Kids.”
Smith said when the college approached her about receiving the award, “I enthusiastically accepted without hesitation.”
“Bryn Mawr is helping shape the futures of young women and providing them with the tools to be dominant forces in our society,” she said.
Smith said her career has always been colored by the written word.
“My love of literature permeates my songs, poems and is certainly prevalent in my photography. Sometimes it may be a stylistic influence and at times a direct reference,” she said in an email to The Associated Press. “I have taken photographs of Virginia Woolf’s bed, Sylvia Plath’s grave, Hermann Hesse’s typewriter, Victor Hugo’s desk. I have recently written a song and lengthy poem in homage to the great Chilean writer Roberto Bolano. My song ‘My Blakean Year’ gives a nod to William Blake and ‘Easter’ was written for Arthur Rimbaud and his siblings.
“One can find such references all through my work,” she said. “Literature has always been in the center of my existence. I loved books so much that I worked in book stores right up to the recording of ‘Horses.’”
College President Dr. Jane McAuliffe said Smith “conveys enormous passion and continues to transform herself throughout her artistic journey.”
The college comprises 1,300 female undergraduates, two coeducational graduate schools and a coeducational pre-medical program.
The medal named after Hepburn, a Bryn Mawr alumna, honors women who change their worlds and whose work and embodies the intelligence and independence of the four-time Oscar winner.
It was awarded by the college’s Katharine Houghton Hepburn Center, which memorializes Hepburn and her mother, an early feminist activist who shared the same name, with programs focusing on the arts and theatre, civic engagement, and women’s health.
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