Clare Boothe Luce

Lived:March 10, 1903—October 9, 1987 (aged 84)
Career:U.S. Ambassador to Italy, 1953- 1956
U.S. House of Representatives, 1943-1947
Journalist, author and playwright

Clare Boothe Luce served as U.S. ambassador to Italy from 1953 to 1956, the first American woman appointed to a major ambassadorial post abroad. She also served as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1943 to 1947.

Luce was born March 10, 1903, in New York City. Her original ambition was to become an actress and she briefly attended a school of the theater in New York City. After a tour of Europe with her mother and stepfather, Dr. Albert E. Austin, she became interested in the women's suffrage movement and worked for the National Woman's Party in Washington, D.C. and Seneca Falls, New York. She married George Tuttle Brokaw, a New York clothing manufacturer, in 1923, and they had a daughter, but the marriage ended in divorce in 1929. In 1930, Luce became associate editor for "Vanity Fair," and in 1931, she published "Stuffed Shirts," a volume of short stories. In 1934, Luce resigned from "Vanity Fair" to pursue a career as a playwright. In 1935, she married Henry "Harry" Robinson Luce, the publisher of "Time" magazine. She continued her writing career, publishing a number of magazine articles and authoring several plays, including "The Women," with an all-female cast of 40. Luce was also a war correspondent for "Life" magazine, touring Britain, Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy, France, Africa, India, China and Burma.

In 1942, Luce was elected to the United States House of Representatives for Connecticut's 4th Congressional District, filling the seat formerly held by her stepfather. Her experience as a war correspondent helped her win appointment on the House Military Affairs Committee. During her second term, Luce was instrumental in the creation of the Atomic Energy Commission. After the death of her daughter in 1944, Luce joined the Roman Catholic Church in 1946 and began moving to the far right in the Republican Party. In 1952, she campaigned extensively for Republican candidate Dwight Eisenhower, persuading many traditionally Democrat-voting Catholics to vote for Eisenhower. She was rewarded with an appointment as ambassador to Italy.

In 1973, Luce was appointed by President Richard Nixon to the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board (PFIAB) and remained on the board through President Gerald Ford's administration. In 1979, Luce was the first woman to be awarded the Sylvanus Thayer Award by the United States Military Academy at West Point. In 1981, President Ronald Reagan reappointed Luce to the PFIAB. In 1983 Luce was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Reagan, the first female member of Congress to receive the award.

Luce died of brain cancer on October 9, 1987, at age 84.