( 1903-1987), journalist, playwright, author, member of Congress, ambassador, and Republican party matriarch
MOYA ANN BALL
In his paintings of Clare Boothe Luce, the artist René Magritte captured the complexity and even the paradox of her public persona: one symbolic portrait depicts her as a lush pink rose beside a silver dagger, and the other shows a feather holding up the tower of Pisa ( Washington Times, June 15, 1984). Her blonde, beautiful looks did much to convey a stereotypical impression of fragile femininity. On the other hand, Boothe Luce displayed a strength in her written and spoken rhetoric that flourished in controversy, revealed a devastating wit, and effectively created public opinion on crucial issues. This essay argues that much of her rhetorical success hinged on the disarming combination of her formidable femininity.
Boothe Luce's early life fostered a sense of independence. She was born on March 10, 1903, in New York City. After her father, a one-time patent-medicine salesman as well as a professional violinist, deserted his family in 1912, she moved frequently with her mother and brother over the next four years. As a result, her education was sporadic. In 1915 she attended St. Mary's boarding school in Garden City, Long Island, where, according to a school friend, she excelled in public speaking ( Morton, 1942, Biographical File).
Boothe Luce early demonstrated traits that would guide her career and rhetoric for years to come. Her activism began in her teens. While traveling from Europe on board the Olympia, she met Alva Smith (Mrs. Oliver H. P.) Belmont, a prominent social figure, suffragist, and founder of the National Woman's party, who, in 1921, hired her to assist with correspondence, to arrange speaking engagements, and to drop women's movement leaflets from a plane flying over Seneca Falls. Through Belmont, she met George Tuttle Brokow, whom she