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Luce, Clare Boothe (1903–1987)

Accomplished playwright, editor, journalist, U.S. congresswoman, diplomat, political activist, and wife of magazine magnate Henry R. Luce. Clare Boothe Luce was born Anne Clare Boothe on 10 April 1903 in New York City. She had a peripatetic childhood, living in New York, Chicago, Memphis, and France. Originally drawn to acting, she enrolled briefly in a New York City drama school but dropped out after less than a year. In 1923, at age twenty, she married a well-to-do clothing manufacturer she had met while working on women's rights issues. Her husband was twenty-four years her senior, and the marriage ended in 1929. Luce subsequently threw herself into writing and editing, working for Vogue and Vanity Fair magazines. In 1935 she wed Henry Luce, founder of Time and Life magazines, among others.

Luce then turned to her love of the theater. She had quit her editorial position in 1934 to devote her full energies to theatrical writing, which resulted in a number of well-received plays that appeared on Broadway. Beginning in 1940 she traveled extensively for Life magazine, and in 1941 she and her husband traveled to China as roving reporters. In 1942 Luce won a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives from Connecticut. She was the state's first woman elected to Congress. A staunch Republican, she was highly critical of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Democrats. During her two terms in office (1943–1947), Luce was often critical of Democratic foreign policy but nevertheless voted with it most of the time. She was also a key player in the creation of the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), which brought nuclear energy under full civilian control in 1946. Before her term expired, she had already begun to sound the alarms about communist subversion, a precursor of McCarthyism that exploded onto the scene in 1950.

After exhaustively campaigning for Dwight D. Eisenhower in the 1952 election, Luce was rewarded when the new president named her ambassador to Italy, a post she held during 1953–1956. As such, she helped mediate the dispute between Italy and Yugoslavia over Trieste. In 1959, Eisenhower appointed her to the ambassadorship of Brazil. However, after an acrimoniously partisan Senate confirmation process during which Luce quipped that a leading Democrat acted as if he had been "kicked in the head by a horse," she resigned the position just days after being confirmed.

Luce continued her writing, painting, and political activism, becoming increasingly identified with the far right wing of the Republican Party. In 1964 she considered a run for the U.S. Senate but was dissuaded from doing so by party leaders. She then largely retired from the public spotlight until 1981, when President Ronald Reagan appointed her to the President's Intelligence Advisory Board. She left the board in 1983. Luce died in Washington, D.C., on 9 October 1987.

Paul G. Pierpaoli Jr.


Further Reading
Sheed, Wilifrid. Clare Boothe Luce. New York: E. P. Dutton, 1982.
 

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