Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Clare Boothe Luce

Because I am a woman, I must make unusual efforts to succeed. If I fail, no one will say, ‘She doesn't have what it takes.’ They will say, ‘Women don't have what it takes.’”

Born this day in 1903: Clare Boothe Luce (1903–1987), member of Congress, diplomat, war correspondent, magazine editor, and playwright noted for her satirical wit

Clare Boothe Luce was born Ann Clare Boothe in New York City. Despite rocky beginnings as the daughter of a moderately unsuccessful show biz couple, Luce was able to receive an education, and by the time she was a young woman she moved in prominent social circles.
In 1923 she married wealthy businessman George Brokaw. Luce, however, was not content to play the role of a wealthy man’s wife, and Brokaw turned out to be an abusive, drunken lout. She divorced him after six years. The couple had one child, Ann.
After her divorce, Luce began the first of several careers. She began writing and editing, and served as editor at Vogue and Vanity Fair. She also wrote a series of short satires about New York society, which were published in the collection Stuffed Shirts in 1931. In 1934 she left Vanity Fair to try her hand as a playwright. Her first play was a flop, but her next three were highly successful Broadway plays (and later motion pictures): The Women, a comedy satirizing high society (1935), Kiss the Boys Goodbye, a satire of American life based on a search for a southern belle to play Scarlett O’Hara in a rousing musical (1938), and Margin for Error, an anti-Nazi play (1940).
In 1935 she married Henry R. Luce, publisher of Time and (later) Life. Luce served as a war correspondent for Life.  She established a reputation as a serious voice on international issues with her account Europe in the Spring (1940).
In 1942 she entered politics, winning a seat in Congress as a representative from Connecticut. She was an outspoken and influential Republican and the first woman to give the keynote address at a Republican National Convention (1944). She was an advocate for equal pay for equal work, fought for racial equality in the armed services, and sponsored bills to establish a department of child health, education, and welfare and a department to promote science and research. She was a strong anti-communist (“Communism is the opiate of the intellectuals with no cure except as a guillotine might be called a cure for dandruff.”)  and a critic of Roosevelt’s foreign policy. After serving two terms, she declined to run for a third (perhaps owing to her grief over losing her daughter to an auto accident in 1944).
She left office to resume writing plays, but remained influential politics. She campaigned for Dwight Eisenhower, who as president appointed her as ambassador to Italy (1953). She resigned in 1956, but in 1959 was again nominated for an ambassadorship—this time to Brazil. Her confirmation was difficult, due largely to the efforts of one man, Senator Wayne Morse of Oregon, head of the Foreign Relations Committee.  (Of the difficulty of winning confirmation, she said ''My difficulties, of course, go back some years, when Senator Morse was kicked in the head by a horse.'') Though confirmed, she resigned before taking up the post.
Luce remained active in Republican causes and continued writing for many years. She received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1983.

One of the most well-known women in the country, Luce was famous for her acerbic wit. Here is a sampling:
  • No good deed goes unpunished.
  • They say women talk too much. If you have worked in Congress, you know that the filibuster was invented by men.
  • Male supremacy has kept woman down. It has not knocked her out.
  • I refuse the compliment that I think like a man, thought has no sex, one either thinks or one does not.
  • No woman has ever so comforted the distressed or distressed the comfortable.  (About Eleanor Roosevelt.)
  • Nature abhors a virgin—a frozen asset.
  • Money can't buy happiness, but it can make you awfully comfortable while you're being miserable.
  • I'm in my anecdotage.

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