Clare Boothe Luce (March 10, 1903 - October 9, 1987)

With a dynamic career that included service in Congress, politics, theater and journalism, Clare Boothe Luce was one of the most iconic women of the 20th century. Anne Clare Boothe was born in New York City to William Franklin Boothe, a violinist and businessman, and Anna Clara Snyder, a dancer and chorus singer. She studied at St. Mary's School in Garden City, N.Y. and in 1919 she graduated from Miss Mason's School, "The Castle," in Tarrytown, N.Y.

As assistant editor of Vanity Fair magazine during the early 1930s, Boothe wrote satirical articles that were later compiled into a book called "Stuffed Shirts." When she became managing editor, she infused her articles with political commentary to help revitalize the magazine. Boothe left the magazine in 1934 to focus her career on playwriting. After having written three plays that were not produced, she finally had her first play produced in 1935. Abide With Me, which depicted an alcoholic and abusive husband, was not well-received.

Shortly after the opening of the play, Boothe married magazine mogul Henry R. Luce, who had co-founded TIME, Inc. The following year in 1936, Luce's most successful play The Women, opened on Broadway to rave reviews.

Following the outbreak of World War II, Luce sailed to Europe in 1940 as a correspondent for Life magazine. Her firsthand accounts of the war resulted in her book "Europe in the Spring." 1942, just three years before the war ended, Luce made the decision to run for the House of Representatives in Fairfield County, Conn. She was elected to Congress for Connecticut's Fourth District, beating a Democratic incumbent by 7,000 votes. As an out-spoken Republican, Luce was critical of Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal and his administration. As a Representative, "she often spoke out on foreign policy as well as for racial equality in the armed forces and war production."

Though she'd been re-elected in 1944, tragedy struck when her 19-year-old daughter was killed in a car accident. After receiving support and comfort from Rev. Fulton J. Sheen, known for his televised preaching, she converted to Roman Catholicism in 1946. In the years that followed, Luce's writings would become centered on spirituality. One project, a screenplay for a film called Come to the Stable, explored the lives of two nuns and received an Oscar nomination in 1949.

Though Luce continued to be politically active, she did not campaign for re-election in 1946. President Dwight D. Eisenhower appointed her as Ambassador to Italy in 1953 and remained in the position until 1956. President Ronald Reagan appointed Luce to the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board in 1981, and in 1983 she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Luce died on October 9, 1987.

Works Cited:

  • Picture: National Archives and Records Administration
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