Eartha Kitt, the sultry singer and actress who played the popular character of Catwoman in the Batman television series, has died at the age of 81 in New York, her publicist said Thursday.
Kitt was being treated for colon cancer, her publicist Patty Freedman told broadcaster CNN. Her daughter Kitt Shapiro was with her at the time.
Kitt, who rose from South Carolina cotton fields to become an international symbol of elegance and sensuality, became famous for her portrayal of Catwoman in the television series Batman in the 1960s as well as her Christmas song Santa Baby.
She distinguished herself in film, theatre, cabaret, music and television and was nominated thrice for a Tony, and twice for Grammy and Emmy awards, according to her official website.
Born Eartha Mae Kitt in South Carolina she was ostracized at an early age because of her mixed-race heritage. When she was eight, her mother sent her to live with an aunt in Harlem, New York, where she soon discovered her love for show business.
Singing in ten languages, Kitt performed in more than 100 countries and was honoured with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1960.
In 1968, she spoke out against the Vietnam war at a White House lunch and was subsequently blacklisted in the US for several years and forced to work abroad.
In December 2006, Kitt returned to Washington and lit the national Christmas Tree with President George W. Bush and his wife Laura.
Kitt is survived by her daughter and four grandchildren, with whom she lived in Connecticut.