Meet Rep. Clare Boothe Luce - A Republican Trailblazer

Rep. Jeannette Rankin from Montana, the first woman to serve in the House of Representatives, paved the way for conservative icon Clare Boothe Luce.  Born in New York City in 1903, Luce attended the Cathedral schools in Garden City and Tarrytown, New York, graduating first in her class in 1919 at age 16.

The first goal of her mother’s ambitious plan was for her daughter to become an actress. After studying with Mary Pickford on Broadway at age 10, Clare made her Broadway debut in 1914 in Mrs. Henry B. Harris’ production of “The Dummy,” a detective comedy.

In 1942, Luce was elected as a Republican to represent Connecticut’s 4th Congressional District (in Fairfield County).  She made a sensational debut in her maiden speech, coining the phrase “globaloney” to disparage the administration of President Franklin Roosevelt and Vice President Henry Wallace. (who was later exposed as a Communist) on issues such as infant-care and maternity appropriations for the wives of enlisted men. 

Nevertheless, Roosevelt took a dislike to her and campaigned in 1944 to attempt to prevent her re-election, publicly calling her “a sharp-tongued glamour girl of forty.”  Interestingly, this is a line that’s been omitted from most history books.  Despite FDR’s many attempts at smearing Luce, she was re-elected to Congress in 1944. In her 2nd term, Luce was instrumental in the creation of the Atomic Energy Commission.  She also toured the front lines during the war in Europe.  One of her many signature legislations was the Luce-Celler Act of 1946, which permitted Indians and Filipinos to immigrate to the US with a yearly quota of 100 from each of the countries.

In 1953, she was named Ambassador to Italy by President Eisenhower and confirmed by the US Senate.   As Ambassador, her principal achievement was playing a vital role in negotiating a peaceful solution to the Trieste Crisis of 1953, a border dispute between Italy and Yugoslavia that she saw as potentially escalating into a war between East and West. Her sympathies throughout this situation were with the Christian Democratic government of Giuseppe Pella, and she was influential in the creation of the Mediterranean policy of Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, another anti-communist. 

Although Luce regarded the abatement of the acute phase of the crisis in December 1953 as a triumph for herself, the main work of settlement, finalized in October 1954, was undertaken by professional representatives of the five concerned powers (Britain, France, the United States, Italy, and Yugoslavia) meeting in London.

In 1973, President Richard Nixon named Luce to the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board (PFIAB). She remained on the board until President Jimmy Carter succeeded President Gerald Ford in 1977. By that time, she had put down roots in Washington, D.C. that would become permanent during her remaining years. In 1979, she was the first woman to be awarded the Sylvanus Thayer Award by the United States Military Academy at West Point.  Luce was also the first member of Congress to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which was awarded by President Reagan.

Clare Boothe Luce paved the road for all the Republican women who came after her, everyone from our own Rep. Marjorie Holt, Del. Kathy Szlegia, and Ellen Sauerbrey in Maryland to all the Republican women nationally, including Gov. Nikki Haley, Gov. Kristi Noam, Governor Sarah Palin and other notable Republican women, who stand on the shoulders of Rep. Clare Boothe Luce, including Ambassador Jean Kirkpatrick, and Phyllis Schlafly.  


This article, in honor of Republican women trailblazers, was submitted by Dwight Patel, who is a Member and former Vice Chair of the Montgomery County Republican Central Committee.

Montgomery County Republican Party