Clare Boothe Luce had an extensive and varied career as a playwright, journalist, editor, politician, and diplomat. Her fame has derived largely from her marriage to publisher Henry Luce and from her celebrity as a socialite, social critic, and political conservative. Yet also important in understanding her influence is her mid-life conversion to Roman Catholicism, a decision that she wrote about and which redefined her literary career.
Born in New York City on March 10, 1903, to William and Ann Boothe, Clare learned early the arts of performance and social climbing. William Boothe was a violinist, Ann Boothe an actress. The struggling family moved frequently; as a consequence, Clare and her older brother, David, had only sporadic schooling. William Boothe left the family in 1911, and the couple divorced in 1913.
Clare represented her mother’s hopes for social advancement. Ann Boothe pursued the girl’s marital and theatrical prospects, arranging for Clare to become Mary Pickford’s understudy in a stage production. She also learned to invest successfully in the stock market and financed a private education for her daughter. Clare attended Cathedral School of St. Mary in Long Island before beginning tenth grade at the Castle School in Tarrytown, New York. Her writing distinguished her at school, and in 1919 she graduated early, first in her class.
Clare’s brief attempts at employment and secretarial school left her unfulfilled; reading philosophy and writing poetry suited her better. Ann Boothe having remarried, the family went abroad in 1920, and Europe’s cathedrals and theater captivated Clare. While traveling, she met and impressed the wealthy social reformer and feminist Alva Belmont, who in 1921 hired Clare as her assistant in promoting the National Women’s Party. Meanwhile, her mother continued efforts to arrange a well-to-do marriage for Clare. On August 10, 1923, at the age of twenty, Clare married George Brokaw, who was