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Clare Boothe Luce

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Template:Infobox Ambassador

Clare Boothe Luce (April 10, 1903, New York City – October 9, 1987, Washington D.C.) was an American playwright, editor, journalist, ambassador, socialite and U.S. Congresswoman, representing the state of Connecticut.

Early life

Clare Boothe Luce was born Ann Boothe, the second illegitimate child of dancer Anna Clara Schneider (aka Snyder, aka Anne Boothe) and William Franklin Boothe. Her father, a violinist and patent-medicine salesman who was married to another woman, instilled in his daughter a love of music and literature. Parts of her childhood were spent in Chicago, Illinois; Memphis, Tennessee (where the Boothe-Snyder family began using the surnames Murphy and Murfé); Union City, New Jersey; and New York City, New York. She had an elder brother, David Franklin. Clare's parents separated in 1912, with her mother thereafter publicly claiming to be a widow though telling her children that she and their father had divorced. To support herself and her young family, Ann Boothe worked as a "call girl" attached to a series of wealthy lovers.[1]

Boothe attended schools in Garden City and Tarrytown, New York, graduating in 1919. Her original ambition was to become an actress. She understudied Mary Pickford on Broadway at age 10, then briefly attended a school of the theater in New York City. While on a European tour with her mother and stepfather, Dr. Albert E. Austin, whom her mother married in 1919, Boothe became interested in the Women's suffrage movement.

Boothe married George Tuttle Brokaw, heir to a New York clothing fortune, on August 10, 1923, at the age of 20. They had one daughter, Ann Clare Brokaw (April 25, 1924 - January 11, 1944). According to Boothe, Brokaw was an alcoholic, and the marriage ended in divorce in 1929. On November 23, 1935, Boothe married Henry Robinson Luce, the wealthy and influential publisher of Time, Fortune, and Life.

Luce was well-acquainted with other members of New York society and was a close friend of actress Dorothy Hale. After Hale's dramatic death by suicide in October 1938, Luce commissioned Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, who also had been a friend of Hale's, to do a portrait of the ill-fated thespian. Kahlo, in response, painted "El Suicidio de Dorothy Hale", a lurid depiction of Hale's death that reportedly shocked and horrified Luce.[2]

On January 11, 1944, Luce's daughter Ann Clare Brokaw, while a senior at Stanford University, was killed in an automobile accident. As a result of this tragedy, Luce explored psychotherapy and religion, joining the Roman Catholic Church in 1946, ultimately becoming a Dame of Malta.

Writing career

As a writer for stage, film and magazines, Luce was known for her skill with satire and understatement, as well as her charm with people, which she displayed in oft-quoted aphorisms such as, "No good deed goes unpunished." After the end of her first marriage, Luce resumed her maiden name, and joined the staff of the fashion magazine Vogue, as an editorial assistant in 1930. In 1931, she became associate editor of Vanity Fair, and began writing short sketches satirizing New York society. In 1933, the same year she became managing editor of the magazine, her sketches were compiled and published under the title Stuffed Shirts. Boothe resigned from Vanity Fair in 1934 to pursue a career as a playwright.

In 1940, after World War II had begun, Luce took time away from her success as a playwright and traveled to Europe as a journalist for her husband's Life Magazine. During a four-month visit, she covered a wide range of battlefronts. Her observations of Italy, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and England in the midst of the German offensive were published as Europe in the Spring in 1940. This anecdotal account describes "... a world where men have decided to die together because they are unable to find a way to live together."

In 1941, Luce and her husband toured China and reported on the status of the country and its war with Japan. After the United States entered World War II, Luce toured Africa, India, China, and Burma, compiling reports for Life. Luce endured the frustrations and dangers familiar to most war correspondents, including bombing raids in Europe and the Far East. Luce's unsettling observations eventually led to changes in British military policy in the Middle East.

During this tour, she published interviews with General Harold Alexander, commander of British troops in the Middle East; Chiang Kai-Shek; Jawaharlal Nehru; and General Joseph Warren Stilwell, commander of American troops in the China-Burma-India theater. While in Trinidad and Tobago, she faced house arrest by British Customs due to Allied discomfort over the contents of a draft article for Life magazine.

In 1947, after her second term in the US House expired, Luce wrote a series of articles describing her conversion to Roman Catholicism under the influence of Fulton J. Sheen. These were published in McCall's magazine. In 1949, she wrote the screenplay for the film Come to the Stable, about two nuns trying to raise money to build a children's hospital. The screenplay was nominated for an Academy Award. Luce returned to writing for the stage in 1951 with Child of the Morning.

In 1952, she edited the book Saints for Now, a compilation of essays about various saints written by authors including Whittaker Chambers, Evelyn Waugh, Bruce Marshall, and Rebecca West. She wrote her final play, Slam the Door Softly, in 1970.

Political career

Clare Boothe Luce and Henry Luce NYWTS

Clare Boothe Luce, ambassador to Italy, with husband Henry Luce (1954).

In 1942, Luce won a Republican seat in the United States House of Representatives representing Fairfield County, Connecticut, the 4th Congressional District. She filled the seat formerly held by her late stepfather, Dr. Austin. An outspoken critic of the Democratic President's foreign policy, Luce won the respect of the ultraconservative isolationists in Congress and received an appointment to the Military Affairs Committee.

However, her voting record was generally more moderate, siding with the administration on issues such as funding for American troops and aid to war victims. Recent scholarship indicates that this may have been a result of her amorous relationships with the "Baker Street Irregulars" - a group of culturally elite spies sent by Churchill to Washington to influence American political views. Luce won a second term in the House in 1944 and was instrumental in the creation of the Atomic Energy Commission and began warning against the growing threat of international Communism.

Luce returned to politics during the 1952 presidential election, when she campaigned on behalf of Republican candidate Dwight Eisenhower. Luce's support was rewarded with an appointment as ambassador to Italy, confirmed by the Senate in March 1953. Meeting Pope Pius XII, she allegedly instructed him to be tougher on communism in defense of the Church, prompting the Pontiff to a quiet reply, "You know, Mrs. Ambassador, I am a Catholic too." As ambassador, Luce addressed the issue of anticommunism and the Italian labor movement and helped settle the dispute between Italy and what was then Yugoslavia over the United Nations territorial lines in Trieste. Not long afterward, Luce fell seriously ill with arsenic poisoning caused by paint chips falling from the stucco that decorated her bedroom ceiling, and was forced to resign in 1956.[3]

Luce maintained her association with the conservative wing of the Republican party. She was well known for her anti-Communist views, as well as her advocacy of fiscal conservatism. In 1964, she supported Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona, the Republican candidate for president, and considered a candidacy for the United States Senate from New York on the Conservative party ticket. However, also in 1964, her husband retired as editor-in-chief of Time, and Luce joined him by also retiring from public life. In 1979, she was the first female to be awarded the Sylvanus Thayer Award by the United States Military Academy at West Point.

In 1981, newly inaugurated President Ronald Reagan appointed Luce to the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. She served on the board until 1983, the year President Reagan awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Death

Clare Luce died of brain cancer on October 9, 1987, aged 84 at her Watergate apartment in Washington D.C. She is buried at Mepkin Abbey, in South Carolina.

Legacies

Since its first grants in 1989 the Clare Boothe Luce Program has become the single most significant source of private support for women in science, mathematics and engineering. To date grants of more than $120 million have supported some 1,550 women. Grants are made to colleges and universities, not directly to individuals. (Clare Booth Luce Program website)

Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute

The CBLPI was founded in 1993 by Michelle Easton.[4] The non-profit think tank seeks to advance American women through conservative ideas and espouses much the same philosophy as the late Clare Boothe Luce, both in terms of foreign policy and domestic policy.[5]

Publications

Plays:

Screenplays:

Books:

  • 1933, Stuffed Shirts
  • 1940, Europe in the Spring
  • 1952, Saints for Now (editor)

See also

References

  1. Sylvia Jukes Morris, Rage for Fame, Random House, 1997, pages 21-44
  2. October Feature: Notorious Portraits
  3. "Foreign Relations: Arsenic for the Ambassador", Time, 23 July 1956
  4. Writer, Diplomat Clare Boothe Luce, cblpi.org
  5. About the Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute

Sources

External links

Template:S-dip
United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Le Roy D. Downs
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Connecticut's 4th congressional district
1943 – 1947
Succeeded by
John D. Lodge
Preceded by
Ellsworth Bunker
United States Ambassador to Italy
1953 – 1956
Succeeded by
James David Zellerbach
sv:Clare Boothe Luce

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