114 years ago, Ann Clare Boothe was born in New York City. She would become known as Clare Boothe Luce and was an author, playwright, politician, Ambassador, and very public figure most know for her conservatism.
She broke the glass ceiling as the first American woman appointed to an ambassadorial post abroad. She went to Italy and was appointed to Brazil; major assignments. It wasn’t just window dressing, it was real diplomacy.
She started life in a relatively poor New York City household the child of a musician. She did a brief stint as an understudy for Mary Pickford on Broadway and was in a film or two.
But her real talent was as a playwright, and a diplomat, and a politician, and well – she was pretty versatile.
She would eventually marry Henry Luce, the publisher of Time, Life, Fortune, and Sports Illustrated.
But prior to that, she married one George Tuttle Brokaw a millionaire heir to a clothing fortune. The mostly unhappy couple had one daughter, Ann Clare Brokaw who would die at the age of 19 in an automobile accident.
Though Clare’s life was filled with wealth, it wasn’t always rosy. Her unhappiness caused her to say, “Money can’t buy happiness, but it can make you awfully comfortable while you’re being miserable.”
Sadly, George was a drunk. The marriage ended in divorce.
Near Thanksgiving of 1935, she married Henry Robinson Luce, the famous publisher. She adopted the name of Clare Boothe Luce, but as a professional writer she went by Clare Luce.
She is best known for her play The Women. It contained an all female cast.
She was known as a charismatic speaker and in 1946 after converting to Roman Catholicism, she campaigned for every Republican candidate from Wendell Willkie to Ronald Reagan. Prior to that she’d been sided with FDR, was a protégé of Bernard Baruch and aligned with their liberalism.
Later she would become their critic.
Her foray into politics would cause her to say, “In politics women type the letters, lick the stamps, distribute the pamphlets and get out the vote. Men get elected.”
She changed that too. She got elected; to the House of Representatives. She represented Fairfield County, Connecticut’s 4th Congressional District and based her platform on three goals: 1. Win the war, 2. Prosecute that war as loyally and effectively as we can as Republicans, and 3. Bring about a better world and a durable peace with special attention to post-war security and employment at home.
She was not the only woman on the House floor, but she was a stand out. Witty, beautiful, rich, she would have none of it when men treated her patronizingly.
She coined the phrase “go baloney” in her maiden speech while she disparaged the Vice President’s plan for airlines to have free access to US Airports! She called for the repeal of the Chinese Exclusion Act, calling it a doctrine of race theology. She advocated for war victims, pushed for infant care, maternity help for the wives of enlisted men, and other shockingly modern ideals!
This caused her to say, “Male supremacy has kept woman down. It has not knocked her out.”
She pushed for the creation of the Atomic Energy Commission, campaigned on the Allied battlefronts of Europe and was present at the liberation of several Nazi concentration camps.
And after the war, she took on communism as she was sure it would lead to World War III.
She co-wrote the Luce-Celler Act of 1946 which increased the number of Indian and Filipino immigrants to the US.
Back home in 1952, she campaigned for IKE. As a reward, she was as the ambassador to Italy and oversaw 1150 employees!
Italy was skeptical, but she won them over with her charm, wit, and piety.
The Commies hated her.
At the end of his presidency, IKE appointed her to Brazil as our nation’s ambassador; she learned Portuguese for the job.
Her conservatism began to get in the way of politics and she was met with opposition. She was confirmed, but not without a fuss.
She served four days and never left the US.
Her husband begged her to decline the appointment. The couple felt the controversy surrounding her appointment would thwart her success and hinder respect from the Brazilian people.
When Cuba fell to Castro’s communism, she and Henry started sponsoring anti-communist groups.
They funded Cuban exiles.
She toyed with running for the Senate.
She stumped for Goldwater.
She spoke on behalf of Reagan.
Officially retiring in 1966, she and Henry were planning a dream home in the desert and one in Hawaii. He died before plans could be completed, but she forged ahead.
It was her dream too.
Reagan awarded her the Medal of Freedom.
She died of brain cancer in 1987 at the age of 84 in her Washington D.C. home.
She coined the phrase, “No good deed goes unpunished.”
In her later years, she was a heroine of the emerging feminist movement. But Clare had mixed feelings about all that.
She invented an excuse to miss the submission of the Equal Rights Amendment. She once said that “…all women want from men was babies and security…” And she encouraged marriage and family for women.
Professionally, she was ahead of her time. Successful as an editor, writer, playwright, reporter, legislator, and diplomat, she became the American Success Story.
She left an estate of $50 million; the majority to education.