Brain Pickings

Clare Boothe Luce’s Advice to Her 18-Year-Old Daughter

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“The main thing is to get what little happiness there is out of life in this wartorn world because ‘these are the good old days’ now.”

Clare Boothe Luce, born March 10, 1903, came of age in an era when to be as blond, athletic, and good-looking as she was came with a set of expectations quite different from what she delivered. Instead, ambitious and sharp-tongued, she emerged as a pioneering media visionary as the managing editor of Vanity Fair, a celebrated playwright, and a formidable congresswoman. In 1944, she became the first woman ever to deliver the keynote address at a national political convention. Her 1953 appointment as Ambassador to Italy made her the first female American ambassador to major post abroad.

On November 24, 1942, Luce penned a letter to her 18-year-old daughter Ann, at the time a sophomore at Stanford, found in Posterity: Letters of Great Americans to Their Children (public library) — the same wonderful collection that gave us Sherwood Anderson’s timelessly poetic advice on the creative life to his teenage son. Amidst counsel on Ann’s first romantic relationship, Luce offers the following advice, which in some ways squarely contradicts and in others subtly seconds F. Scott Fitzgerald’s famous advice to his daughter, and is at its heart the same manifesto for living with awareness and presence that Jackson Pollock received from his father.

Don’t worry about your studies. When you want to do them well you will do them superbly but for the moment the main thing is to get what little happiness there is out of life in this wartorn world because “these are the good old days” now.

(Henry Miller would have agreed.)

A little more than a year later, Ann, Luce’s only child, was killed in a car accident.

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