Archive for the ‘ Women of Influence ’ Category

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.



And He Listened

It’s President’s Day, and as all but one have been married and surely have a love story, oh, why not?

As third cousins*, Abigail and John Adams surely had known one another since childhood. At the age of 27, John went with a friend, Richard Cranch, who was engaged to Abigail’s sister to the Smith home.

No one knows what transpired that day, but John was attracted to Abigail.  Shy, tiny, and all of 17, she was by even today’s standards, nice looking.

But it wasn’t just her looks that attracted the future POTUS to Abigail.  She was smart, well read and knew about poetry, philosophy, and much to John’s delight, politics!

Within two years, and after a struggle or two, the couple married.  Seems Abigail’s mum was not too keen on her daughter marrying a “country lawyer” who “reeked of the farm.”

But, at last she did give in and the lovebirds were married at the “home of the bride.”

After a simple wedding and reception, they both rode to their home, a cottage on a farm John had inherited from his father, on a horse.

One horse.

They produced a child in the ninth months of the marriage.

Over 12 years, they would welcome 6 children into the world.

We are very fortunate when it comes to Abigail Adams.  She was a prolific letter writer, and many have been saved.  Her correspondence with John as he traveled is voluminous, and detailed.

While John was away, Abigail pounded virtue, duty, and obligation in the kids, and ran the farm, ending the day with a missive, or at least part of one.

From the letters we see a couple who had a partnership of unique equality for the day in which they lived, and a man who genuinely valued his wife’s opinion and need her approval.

So much so, he often apologized for his “vanity” in asking for it.

They moved from Braintree to Boston so John could expand his law practice in 1768, rented a house, moving from time to time as the family grew and their needs expanded.

He moved the family back to Braintree so he could concentrate on his law work, but quickly decided that wasn’t the best option.  The family moved back to Boston and stayed there.

Until he went to the nation’s capitol of course.

Politics ran in her family and Abigail could claim kin to Smiths, Quincys, Hancocks, and was a great-grand daughter of John Norton the founding pastor of Old Ship Church in Hingham.

In what would become a new nation, old family mattered.

She was a preacher’s daughter.

She had no formal schooling.

She was a sickly child.

Her mother taught her and her sisters to read, write, and cipher.  They also read English and French literature and their grandmother read to them “whenever possible.”

That seed of education in a time when women barely mattered, would find its way into the founding of a nation.  Adams felt women should have rights and her strong beliefs would influence the man she married who would help to found the country and eventually be its leader.

Even today with the educational opportunities afforded women and the numerous First Ladies who’ve followed her, she’s considered one of the most educated and erudite.

So how, you ask, and why is this a love story?

Well, it’s like this.

In a time when women didn’t and couldn’t own property, she advocated to her husband that they should.

And he listened.

In a time when girls didn’t go to school and were barely educated at home, she advocated for educational opportunities for women.

And he listened.

In a time when obedience was demanded, she advocated that women should not submit to laws which did not have their interest at heart.

And he listened.

In a time when a woman’s place was in the home, she advocated for opportunities which would recognize their intellect, their capabilities, and for their contributions.

And he listened.

In a letter written to her husband during the Continental Congress, Abigail said, “…remember the ladies, and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors.  Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the husbands.  Remember all men would be tyrants if they could.  If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation.”

She believed slavery was evil, and went so far as to defy her neighbors and enroll a free black youth in a night school when he knocked on her door and asked her to teach him to read.

Abigail preceded her husband in death, telling him, “…do not grieve, my friend, my dearest friend.  I am ready to go.  And John, it will not be long.”

She succumbed to typhoid fever on October 28, 1818 at the age of 73.

The advocate that was Abigail Adams may have passed from one realm to another on that October day, but her influence survived in the generations to follow.

The advocate that was John Adam’s love left us her son, her values, and her ideals.

She was truly a woman of influence; and he listened.


*My parents were third cousins, ergo, I am my own fourth cousin as were all of Abigail and John’s children. 🙂


Love In The Time Of Segregation

People often say,’Love is blind,” but there are times when love actually opens our eyes.

Julius Waties Waring was one of those men who had his eyes opened because of the love of a woman.

Julius Waties Waring, a US Federal Judge was instrumental in early legal struggles of the American Civil Rights Movement.

A native of Charleston, South Carolina, he married his first wife in 1913.  He became an assistant US Attorney and the lead counsel for the city of Charleston after which he co-founded a law firm.

Things were looking UP.

He was a Federal Judge from 1942 to 1952 and presided over several civil rights cases.  He had been nominated to the bench by FDR.

Initially, Charlestonians supported their home grown jurist, but when he warped from a moderate to a proponent of radical change, well, things got tough.

He said, “The cancer of segregation will never be cured by the sedative of gradualism.” Stuff like that wasn’t so popular in Jim Crow South Carolina.

Spending the first 60 years of his life as a scion of the city, his status changed when he divorced his wife and married Elizabeth Avery, a twice divorced Detroit native!

He ended segregated seating in his courtroom and appointed John Fleming, a black man, as his bailiff.

People started shunning him and his poor wife wasn’t invited to any teas.

And the Cotillion was just O.U.T!

He was one of three judges to hear a school desegregation test case.  Briggs v. Elliott pitted Thurgood Marshall against the Clarendon County South Carolina public schools which Marshall described as separate but not at all equal.

Marshall lost, but in his dissent, Waring stated, “Segregation is per se inequality.”  The statement formed the legal foundation of Brown v. Board of Education which would come in 1954.

His lovely bride took the heat.  The label of Yankee aside, she was disliked as she was considered the radical influence that had turned Waties Waring from a questioner of status quo to a radical outspoken critic of segregation and a champion for racial justice.

Though they can’t take all the credit, “separate but equal” was eventually declared unconstitutional due in part to this couple’s influence.

But, again, Charlestonians didn’t approve.

Eventually the couple moved to New York.

mac ‘n cheese for the mind…

I remember getting our first television.

I don’t remember the date, the time, or the day, but I do remember the event.

I was young, very young.

I remember sitting in the darkened dining room – which is where we all hung out as not only did it have a table and chairs, there was a couch and Daddy’s big chair, and most importantly, the heating stove for the entire place.

It was a big old Virginia house in the country, efficient – no, happy and comfortable – yes.

But, I digress.

The TV arrived, I was charmed by it.

The earliest show I remember is The Ding Dong School.

Now, it started in November of 1952 – I’d have been five months old; it’s not realistic that I’d remember an event from that time, but the show ended its run in 1956 when I was four and a half – and I do remember running to the dining room to watch Miss Frances as soon as I heard her school bell.

That’s right, she rang a bell at the beginning of each show.


Billed as the nursery school of the air, The Ding Dong School was a ½ hour children’s TV show that began in Chicago and was picked UP by NBC.

Presented from a child’s point of view, it used low angled cameras so kids could see everything at “Lilliputian” eye level, and Miss Frances paced the stories and activities at a rate perfect for small ears and hands.

In other words, she was a genius and a pioneer.

Hosted live by Miss Frances Horwich, The Ding Dong School preceded Sesame Street and Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, and was the most popular TV series aimed at preschoolers.

It was pretty effective, because I was hooked.

A huge fan.

Really, a devotee.

Frances Rappaport Horwich was born in 1907 in Ottawa, Ohio, earned a master’s degree in education from Columbia and a doctorate from Northwestern.  She ran the department of education at Roosevelt College, and eventually supervised the entire NBC children’s programming department.

She also won a Peabody Award.

In December of 1956, The Ding Dong School was canceled to make way for The Price Is Right.

Seriously, not kidding.

About that time, Horwich resigned from NBC in protest of the commercialism of children’s education.  She refused to advertise products a child couldn’t use or products that glorified violence.

Oh that she were here today!

Miss Frances retired, moved to Arizona with her husband and lived to the ripe old age of 94.

The Ding Dong School is one of those warm “mac ‘n cheese” memories; it’s comfort food for the mind.

Truly a woman of influence, Horwich changed TV forever; her style gave rise to a TV technique still in use today; speaking to the viewing audience just as though they were in the same room with the performer.

Every time Colbert looks at you, thank Miss Frances.

And, just in case you need a reminder…