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SJ Morris to Discuss Clare Boothe Luce Biography at JFK Presidential Library

Sylvia Jukes Morris will discuss her recent biography, The Price of Fame: The Honorable Clare Boothe Luce at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library on Sunday, August 24, 2014. The forum is called “The Life of the Extraordinary Clare Boothe Luce.” It will take place from 2:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.

All forums are free and open to the public. One can register it online here. Reservations for forums are strongly recommended.

They guarantee a seat in the building but not the main hall. Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis. Doors to the main hall open one hour before the program begins. This forum is supported by Bank of America, Boston Capital, The Lowell Institute, The Boston Foundation, Raytheon, The Boston Globe, 90.9 (WBUR), and xfinity.

Ann Clare Boothe Luce (1903-1987) was a playwright, magazine editor, congresswoman, ambassador, and wife of Time, Inc. co-founder Henry Luce (1898-1967). She was born the daughter of a violinist and a chorus girl. In 1919, her mother wed Albert Elmer Austin (1877-1942), a prominent doctor and future assemblyman and congressman.

In 1923, she wed George Tuttle Brokaw (1879-1935), whom she met in church. He was the playboy son of a clothing manufacturer.

Her first marriage lasted from 1923 to 1929. They had one child, Ann Clare Brokaw.

Unfortunately, he was a heavy drinker and their marriage ended in divorce on the grounds of mental cruelty. She was awarded $425,000 and educational expenses for Ann Clare Brokaw.

Her friend, Conde Montrose Nast (1873-1942), publisher of Vogue and Vanity Fair, gave her a job as a copy editor. Satirical essays she wrote in Vanity Fair led to the book Stuffed Shirts. She served as managing Editor of Vanity Fair from 1929 to 1934.

She was a hit playwright on Broadway, although her first play to be produced, Abide With Me (1935), bombed. Her other plays included The Women (1936), Kiss the Boys Goodbye (1938), Margin of Error (1939), Child of the Morning (1951) and Slam the Door Softly (1970).

Screenwriters Anita Loos (1889-1981) and Jane Murfin (1884-1955) adapted her play for George Cukor’s film The Women (1939), which, like the play, had an all-female cast that included Norma Shearer (1902-1983), Joan Crawford (1904-1977), Rosalind Russell (1907-1976), Paulette Goddard (1910-1990), and Joan Fontaine (1917-2013). Diane English remade it in 2008 with Meg Ryan, Annette Bening, Eva Mendes, Debra Messing, and Jada Pinkett Smith.

Clare Boothe Luce was the second wife of Henry Luce, who had been Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of the magazines Time, Life, Fortune, and Sports Illustrated since the untimely death of his friend and business partner Briton Hadden (1898-1929). At the time of their wedding in 1936, her daughter was eleven years old, and he raised his stepdaughter as if she was his own. He had had two children by his first wife Lila Hotz Tyng, Henry Luce III (1925-2005) and Peter Paul Luce.

Between 1943 and 1946, she served two terms in the U.S. House of Representatives as a Republican representing Connecticut (as had her stepfather). In 1943, she and Emanuel Celler (1888-1981), a Democrat representing New York, proposed the Luce-Celler Act, which President Harry Truman signed in 1946. The law authorized immigration of Filipinos and East Indians, though it imposed quotas of 100 Filipino and 100 Indian immigrants per year.

Months away from her expected graduation summa cum laude from Stanford University, Ann Brokaw died in a car accident on January 10, 1944 as she returned to school from Christmas vacation. Henry Luce instructed obituary-writers to identify him as Ann’s father, and they obeyed.

The bereaved Henry and Clare Luce wanted to endow a chair or lectureship at Stanford, but the university dragged out negotiations for six years. Ann Brokaw’s death would have repercussions for decades, as Cynthia Haven explained in an article for the Stanford Alumni Association.

For almost half a century, Catholic students and faculty members attended masses at St. Ann’s Chapel in downtown Palo Alto. Ms. Haven related, “Stanford hoped for more money, while Clare Luce complained that the University was treating her like ‘a large foundation instead of an individual,’ according to Armando Trindade, PhD ’71, in his dissertation ‘Roman Catholic Worship at Stanford University: 1891-1971.’”

Ms. Haven cited Clare Boothe Luce biographer Alden Hatch as writing in Ambassador Extraordinary (published by Henry Holt in 1956), “To Clare the news was the end of life, here and hereafter. The shock was so great, her grief so deep, that it seemed she might lose her mind.” A charismatic priest, Monsignor Fulton Sheen (1895-1979) ushered her into the Catholic faith in 1946.[1]
She decided to pay to build a new chapel on Melville Avenue adjacent to Norris House, which housed the Newman Club.[2] It was named in honor of St. Ann, the Virgin Mary’s mother.

In 1998, the Diocese of San Jose decided to sell Norris House and St. Ann’s Chapel to finance the construction of a regular parish church. Out of concern about what might happen to the chapel, the Henry Luce Foundation purchased St. Ann’s Chapel (while a Silicon Valley executive purchased Norris House).

The Henry Luce Foundation leased St. Ann’s Chapel to the Thomas Merton Society. Ms. Haven stated, the Thomas Merton Society was “a liberal Catholic congregation that hoped to eventually buy it. The $1 million price tag proved too much for them, however.”

This spring, St. Ann’s was sold to the Anglican Province of Christ the King, based in Berkeley. The conservative church, headed by Archbishop Robert Morse, favors a return to the 1928 prayer book and a restoration of older customs and practices.

The purchase is, as Morse might say, a providential one. His wife, Nancy, ’42, was Brokaw’s 'big sister' in the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority at Stanford. He grew up on the Peninsula and says he’s ‘loved St. Ann’s for 50 years.’

President Dwight David Eisenhower rewarded Clare Boothe Luce for giving speeches on his behalf encouraging Catholic Democrats to vote in his favor by appointing her as U.S. Ambassador to Italy. She was warmly received by Pope Pius XII and served in this post from 1953 to 1956.

Mrs. Luce helped negotiate an end to the Trieste Crisis between Italy and Yugoslavia. Unfortunately, she was the victim of accidental arsenic poisoning due to lead paint dust in her bedroom.

In 1959, Eisenhower appointed Mrs. Luce U.S. Ambassador to Brazil, but she resigned the office before setting foot in the country. Her husband convinced her she would be hobbled by democratic opposition led by Senator Wayne Morse, Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Latin American Affairs.

After Henry Luce died in 1967, she retired, first to Hawaii, and then to Washington, D.C. She served as a high-society matron. Under Presidents Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, and Ronald Reagan, she served on the President's Intelligence Advisory Board (P.I.A.B.). In 1983, President Reagan award her the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

She is buried at Mepkin Abbey in South Carolina. Formerly a plantation, Henry and Clare Boothe Luce donated the property to the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance (Trappists) in 1949. The first Trappists to reside there came from the Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsemani in Kentucky.

[1] A future Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of New York (1951-1966), Bishop of Rochester (1966-69), and Archbishop of the Titular See of Newport (in Wales) (1969-1979), the Venerable Fulton Sheen was already well known to many Americans through hosting a radio program, The Catholic Hour, from 1930 to 1950. He would become known to many more through Life is Worth Living, a television program that ran on the (now defunct) DuMont Television Network from 1952 to 1956 and on ABC in 1957. He wrote seventy-three books.

[2] Many Catholic student associations at secular universities are named after Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman (1801-1890). Newman was a popular Anglican priest who was a leader of the Oxford Movement amongst High Church Anglicans which called for the Church of England to restore many Catholic rituals and practices. [This evolved into Anglo-Catholicism, which holds that the Church of England (and larger Anglican Communion) is one of three branches of One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, with the other two branches being the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Churches.] In 1845 he became a Catholic. In 1846, Giacomo Filippo Cardinal Fransoni (1775-1856), Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith, ordained him a Catholic priest and Pope Pius IX granted him a Doctor of Divinity. Fr. Newman joined the Oratorians and returned to England in 1847. An English jury convicted Fr. Newman of libel in 1851 for stating in a lecture that the former Dominican priest Giacinto Achilli had not been imprisoned at an Italian monastery for heresy as Achilli claimed, but for molesting underage girls, even though he could produce some of Achilli’s victims in court. A subscription by Catholics on an international scale paid Fr. Newman’s court costs. Fr. Newman became the founding rector of the Catholic University of Ireland (now called University College, Dublin) in 1854. Pope Leo XIII made him a cardinal-deacon in 1879. He wrote a pamphlet, published in 1864, Mr Kingsley and Dr Newman: a Correspondence on the Question whether Dr Newman teaches that Truth is no Virtue. His forty-one books include Apologia Pro Vita Sua (A Defense of His Life), published in 1864; The Idea of a University, published in 1852; and Grammar of Ascent, published in 1870; as well as a novel, Loss and Gain, published in 1848.