Clare Boothe Luce was born Ann Clare Boothe to William Franklin Boothe and Anna Clara Snyder on March 10, 1903 in New York City. Luce's parents were never married and they permanently separated in 1913 after which Anna Snyder, a former chorus girl, was left to fend for herself and her two young children. Thanks to her mother's charm and wiles, Clare and her older brother David, led a fairly comfortable childhood. Often said to be more beautiful than Clare herself, Anna was never without a handful of admirers, some of which acted as benefactors for her children. It was in this way that Clare's mother was able to enroll her at the Castle School in Tarrytown-on-Hudson, where she completed her formal education in 1919, and take her to Europe on two different occasions.
On August 10, 1923, Clare Boothe married George Tuttle Brokaw, a millionaire more than twice her age who at the time was considered to be New York's most eligible bachelor. Her only child, Ann Clare Brokaw, was born a little over a year later on August 22, 1924. Although the Brokaws were among the most prominent of New York's socialites, Clare found the marriage unsatisfying, for it had been a loveless marriage from the very beginning and George's severe drinking problem made the union even less tolerable. Against the wishes of her mother, Clare went to Reno, Nevada in 1929 to obtain a divorce. The settlement she reached with George was enough to provide a comfortable living for herself and her daughter and for the first time in her life Clare was free to devote attention to both her professional and personal goals. She moved into an apartment on the east side of Manhattan and soon began to pursue a career in writing, thus marking the beginning of Luce's impressive professional career. After persuading Conde Nast, publisher of Vogue and Vanity Fair, to give her a job in 1930, she was quickly promoted from caption writer to managing editor of Vanity Fair. It was through her work at Vanity Fair that she met Henry R. Luce, co-founder and editor in chief of Time Inc. Although already married, Luce was reportedly love-stricken with Clare and vowed to marry her one day. Henry and Clare were married only months after he obtained a divorce in 1935. Soon after their marriage, Clare produced her first play, "Abide With Me", which flopped on Broadway. However, her next play, "The Women", a satire on the many high society women Clare had come in contact with while married to George T. Brokaw, was an instant success and was eventually made into a movie. Clare continued to write plays during the rest of her lifetime, one of which, "Come to the Stable," was nominated for an Academy Award for best motion picture story in 1949.
With the outbreak of World War II, Clare decided to go to Europe as a war correspondent for Life magazine, Henry Luce's latest publication, which Clare helped to create. Her experiences in the war zone cultivated an interest in international politics and she quickly became an ardent interventionist. Upon returning home and after receiving honors from the War Department for exceptional war corresponding, Clare accepted the Republican nomination for the House of Representatives from Fairfield County in Connecticut, a post, which her stepfather, Albert E. Austin, had formerly held. She was elected to two consecutive terms, during which she established herself as a foe of Roosevelt's New Deal and any appeasement of the Soviet Union. As a friend of Nationalist China, reinforced by her meetings with General and Madame Chiang Kai-Shek, she spoke in favor of repealing the Chinese Exclusion Act. Clare's poise and charisma attracted much attention, and she was invited to be the featured speaker at the 1944 Republican National Convention. In January 1944, tragedy struck as Clare's daughter, Ann C. Brokaw, was killed at the age of nineteen in a car accident in Palo Alto, CA. She was on her way back to Stanford University with a fellow student, after having just visited with Clare, when a reckless driver hit her automobile, killing her instantly. Ann's death profoundly affected Clare and led to her conversion to Roman Catholicism in 1946 after receiving instruction from Bishop Fulton Sheen.
Clare remained relatively inactive in politics for a period of time following Ann's death, limiting her activities to addressing Catholic audiences and writing. Following the election of Dwight D. Eisenhower, who was strongly supported by both of the Luces, Clare was appointed Ambassador to Italy, becoming the first woman ever to receive an American ambassadorial appointment. She held this office for four years before resigning and returning to the United States. Her success as a diplomat received mixed reviews, for although she succeeded in bringing an end to the Trieste issue; she also received criticism by those who accused her of interfering in Italian domestic affairs. President Eisenhower nominated Clare as Ambassador to Brazil in 1959, but fervent opposition from Democratic members of Congress led Clare to withdraw her candidacy. During the 1960s, Clare chose the life of an author over that of a politician and began writing columns for magazines such as McCall's and National Review. In 1967, after the death of Henry R. Luce, she moved to Hawaii where she lived for the next sixteen years. Although she was leading a fairly relaxed life, Clare still attended Republican conventions and was a staunch supporter of Richard M. Nixon during the presidential election of 1968. Clare was once again rewarded for her efforts when Nixon appointed her to the Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board in 1973. Both Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan renewed this appointment. In 1981, she moved into the Watergate complex in Washington, DC where she spent the remainder of her life and died on October 9, 1987. She is buried next to Henry R. Luce and Ann C. Brokaw at Mepkin, a former Luce estate in South Carolina.
Sources Morris, Sylvia Jukes, Rage for Fame, (New York: Random House, 1997) Shadegg, Stephen, Clare Boothe Luce, (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1970) The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives, Volume 2: 1986-1990, (Charles Scribner's Sons, 1999).