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 Clare <I>Boothe</I> Luce

Clare Boothe Luce

New York, New York County (Manhattan), New York, USA
Death 9 Oct 1987 (aged 84)
Washington, District of Columbia, District Of Columbia, USA
Burial Moncks Corner, Berkeley County, South Carolina, USA
Memorial ID 10966 · View Source
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Stateswoman, Author. A playwright, editor, and society figure, she had a notable political career and was long a "grand dame" of the Republican Party. The illegitimate daughter of a violinist and a lady of dubious reputation, she was early on imbued by her father with a love of good literature and music. Raised under unstable circumstances with a variety of last names in Chicago, Memphis, New York City, and elsewhere, she understudied Mary Pickford on Broadway at 10 and graduated from high school in Tarrytown, New York in 1919. That same year she got her first taste of politics during a trip to Europe with her mother and stepfather, a certain Dr. Austin, when she became interested in the Women Suffrage movement. In 1923, Clare married the wealthy and somewhat older George Tuttle Brokaw who turned out to be an abusive alcoholic; she bore a daughter named Ann in 1924, and was to take back her maiden name following her 1929 divorce. Clare joined the staff of "Vogue" magazine in 1930 and became its managing editor in 1933, along the way publishing a number of satirical society sketches that were collected in 1933 as "Stuffed Shirts". In 1935, she married wealthy publisher Henry Luce and that same year saw her first play, the drama "Abide With Me", produced on Broadway. The work was essentially a flop, though she had better success, at least with the paying public, with 1936's comedic "The Women". Her "Kiss the Boys Goodbye" (1938) and the 1939 "Margin of Error" were both comedies with political overtones that scored as major hits; in 1940, she began working as a war correspondent for Henry's "Life" magazine in both Europe and Asia, then in 1942 she ran as a Republican for a Connecticut Congressional seat. In Washington, Clare lost no time before slamming the Roosevelt administration and was a major supporter of American troops, though her voting record was moderate, seeing her side with the Democrats a number of times and take some liberal positions such as increasing Indian and Filipino immigration quotas. Clare suffered a tragedy in 1944 when her daughter was killed in a motor vehicle accident and in the aftermath, under the spiritual direction of Bishop Fulton J. Sheen, underwent a strong and permanent conversion to the Roman Catholic Church. Indeed, so open was her faith that years later when she was assailing Communism in Italy Pope Pius XII had to remind her that he, too, was Catholic. Declining to run for reelection in 1946, she returned to writing, authoring articles on Catholicism, seeing her 1949 screenplay "Come to the Stable" nominated for an Oscar and having her play "Child of the Morning" staged in 1951. A major supporter of Dwight Eisenhower in the 1952 Presidential campaign, she was rewarded by Ike with appointment as Ambassador to Italy. In Rome she continued to warn against the Communist menace in Europe while helping to mediate a border dispute with Yugoslavia. Clare became the focus of a medical mystery when she developed a severe and unexplained gastrointestinal illness; continued worsening of her condition resulted in evacuation to Washington's Walter Reed Army Medical Center where no firm diagnosis was found, but where her illness resolved without treatment. Becoming symptomatic again upon her return to Rome, she was finally diagnosed with arsenic poisoning; investigation revealed no evidence of a deliberate attempt on her life and showed that no one else in the Embassy was sick. The "culprit" was finally found when it was discovered that Clare's private office has been painted with Paris Green, an attractive though dangerous arsenic-based pigment once popular in the homes of the rich but illegal in the United States for more than 100 years. Nobody else was effected because the paint was too expensive for general use and thus was only in the Ambassadorial office; Clare recovered and remained in her post until 1956. In 1959, she was named Ambassador to Brazil, and though confirmed despite strident opposition from Oregon's Senator Wayne Morse, she resigned a few days later over criticism of her remarks questioning Morse's mental competence in which she speculated that he "must have been kicked in the head by a horse". Clare and Henry gradually retired to Phoenix where they supported Senator Barry Goldwater for President in 1964, then following Henry's sudden death in 1967 she moved to Hawaii and resumed playwriting, though her 1970 "Slam the Door Softly" was unsuccessful. In 1979, she became the first female recipient of West Point's Sylvanus Thayer Award, then in 1981 she returned to Washington where she was named to the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. Presented the Medal of Freedom by President Reagan in 1983, she remained in Washington and died of a brain tumor. The Clare Boothe Luce Award, the Heritage Foundation's highest honor, was created in her memory in 1991. An undoubtedly clever lady, Clare left many notable quotes. Some, such as "No good deed goes unpunished" and "A woman's best protection is a little money of her own" are classics, and while no one saying can capture her completely, perhaps this comes close: "I refuse to accept the compliment that I think like a man, thought has no sex, one either thinks or one does not".

Bio by: Bob Hufford

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The sun shall be no more your light by day,
nor for brightness shall the moon give light to you by night
but the Lord shall be your everlasting light,
and your God will be your glory.
Isaiah 60:19




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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 15 Jul 2000
  • Find A Grave Memorial 10966
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Clare Boothe Luce (10 Apr 1903–9 Oct 1987), Find A Grave Memorial no. 10966, citing Luce Family Cemetery, Moncks Corner, Berkeley County, South Carolina, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .