From 1893 to 1987.
I refuse the compliment that I think like a man. Thought has no sex; one either thinks or one does not.
Clare Boothe Luce was truly a twentieth century woman: a suffragette, well-educated, a career woman, intensely loyal to her country, known as much for her gritty dedication to hard work as for her brilliance. Influential in literary and social circles as a successful playwright and journalist, she became intensely interested in politics prior to World War II.
In 1940, she wrote Europe in the Spring, a work of non-fiction that entailed her life in Europe as the continent was building towards war; the book focused on what Luce perceived as America's errors in its estimation of Hitler's aggressions on that continent. In 1942, Luce chose to run for a Congressional seat in Connecticut as a Republican. Her platform was, in part, based on her belief that America (under the leadership of Franklin Delano Roosevelt) was ill-prepared for World War II. Upon winning the seat, she served on the Military Affairs Committee, and espoused some isolationist stances. Luce was opposed to communism and fascism, noting how both relied on violence.
GOP leaders chose Luce to deliver the keynote speech at the 1944 Republican National Convention in Chicago, the first woman chosen for that address from either party. She criticized the Roosevelt administration, saying that democracy in America was "becoming a dictatorial bumbledom."
Luce was a mother to one daughter, Ann, who was killed in 1944 at the age of 19 in a car accident. The loss left Luce devastated, ill to the point where she was hospitalized for depression. It was at this point in her life that she joined the Catholic Church, and it was said that her faith and political ideas were her two focal points for the remainder of her life. Upon recovering, she began to write plays again, and eventually, found her way back into politics.
Under the Eisenhower administration, she was appointed ambassador to Italy – the first American woman appointed to an ambassordship. Her stances on Communism and her ire for Democratic foes often left her in hot water. She resigned her post after falling ill. It was discovered that she suffered from arsenic poisoning, as the paint used in her overseas residence was tainted with the poison.
She lived a rather quiet life following the death of her husband, but served as part of the Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board under Nixon, Ford, and Reagan. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Ronald Reagan; the medal is awarded for meritorious service to the United States and its security and national interests. She also continued to write; one screenplay, Come to the Stable, was nominated for an Academy Award.
Luce was savvy, chic, smart and intensely driven. She was aware that her work ethic reflected on other women as well: "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.'" By anyone's standards, Luce had what it took.
Luce died in 1987. The Washington Post eulogized her by saying, "She raised early feminist hell. … Unlike so many of her fellow Washingtonians, she was neither fearful nor ashamed of what she meant to say."
The Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute was founded in 1993 to promote conservative ideals amongst American women. Also, the Clare Boothe Luce program, administered by the Henry Luce Foundation, supports women in the areas of math, science and engineering.
Hero of Liberty image attribution: Carl Van Vechten [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons