As seen in a previous article in ANAMNESIS,[1] conservative stalwart Clare Boothe Luce’s (1903–87) life tells us much about American conservative politics. However, we have yet to examine Luce’s relationship to feminism: a social and political movement that called for increased equality for different groups of women.[2] Luce certainly had an ambiguous and complex relationship with feminism. She supported the women’s suffrage movement at the end of the First World War and generally favoured women’s rights during the 1920–45 period, prior to her election to Congress. During her years as a member of Congress, Luce expressed cautious support for women’s equality. She then served as the first Republican woman to be named to the post of ambassador—to Italy and then, very briefly, to Brazil—and endorsed women’s rights in her writings for much of the 1950s and 1960s. During the 1960s and early 1970s, a period that coincided with the rise of “second-wave” feminism[3] in the United States, Clare Boothe Luce turned away from support for women’s equality and endorsed socially conservative views, such as opposition to abortion and pornography. Her change in focus reflected broader trends in American conservative politics. Many Republican and conservative men began to write on socially conservative concerns during the same period. Luce’s transition from support for a moderate vision of feminism to populist, “New Right,” socially conservative views requires an explanation. In this light, this paper examines the views of Clare Boothe Luce on feminism and women’s issues.

This article presents two main arguments. First, it argues that Clare Boothe Luce’s approach to feminism was typical of other right-wing women of her time in public life: approximately 1930–80. While she fought for an increased role for women in public life, Luce stated that this role should not stray too far from what was seen as the “traditional” woman’s role as mother and wife. Her views suggested that wealthy women who held conservative views should play a much larger role in public life. She did not suggest that racial minority or working-class women should come out of the home and into the public sphere.[4] In effect, Luce argued that women should have an increased public role but with the explicit goal of promoting conservative values. We might call this a “conservative feminist” ideology. Similarly, Luce borrowed much of her ideology from the early American feminist movement of 1848–1920: this has become known as “first-wave,” or “maternal,” feminism.[5] She maintained this conservative feminist viewpoint during the 1945–70 period, bridging the gap between what has been seen as an “interregnum” for feminism—the 1920 to 1960 period—and the onset of second wave feminism during the late 1960s and 1970s. Different versions of feminism existed during different periods of American history, even those previously seen as lacking a feminist movement. Luce’s life suggests that ideas from first-wave feminism could carry over into the second-wave era.

Second, this paper argues that Luce engaged in a debate over “equality vs. difference.” This debate—a key one in feminist thought even today—relates to whether women deserve a larger role in public society based on their perceived biological, intellectual, and social similarities to, or differences from, men. Luce vacillated over whether to be an “equality” or a “difference” feminist. She never came to a concrete conclusion on this issue. Indeed, by the late 1960s, Luce had migrated to a point of opposition to second-wave feminism and the leftist values of many in the 1960s generation, even as she continued to endorse conservative feminist views. In the end, this article grapples with the question of how feminist authors and scholars see conservative and right-wing women as part of the history of feminism, if at all.[6] Therefore, we discuss Luce’s relationship with the women’s liberation movement from her earlier years in public life to her transition to socially conservative views.

Clare Boothe Luce and Women: The Moderate Years

Clare Boothe Luce expressed contradictory views on the role of women. During her more moderate years of the 1940s and 1950s, Luce expressed positive views on women working outside of the home, in paid work and in politics. In many ways, Luce always held an ambivalent attitude toward women’s work outside of the home. Still, in earlier decades, Luce spoke out against sexism. In an early manuscript, before her marriage to Henry Luce, Clare Boothe, as she was known at the time, offered an opinion on women and their role in the Second World War, as well as a look into her views on the suffrage era. She remarked that “American women gave us the prohibition law (American women repealed it too), child labor laws, laws affecting women specifically,” while industries had “effective women lobbies.” Here, Boothe expressed praise for what she saw as the gains made by first-wave feminists such as Alice Paul.[7] In the same document, she expressed a perspective on women and war: “there are many—perhaps several million—more women against America’s active participation in the war, and, therefore, against aid to Great Britain, than there are men.” Boothe’s statement likely reflected the influence of isolationists in American society and politics at the time.[8]

Boothe went on to express support for a maternalist ideology: an endorsement of women deserving rights on the basis of their perceived biological and social differences from men, related to women’s status as mothers.[9] The reason for women’s lack of support for the war was, Boothe argued, “because they are mothers, or sweethearts, or sisters of possible soldiers.” She went on to state that women were more “emotional and tenderhearted” and, therefore, that women were “more active and eager and whole-hearted than men in war relief efforts.” Boothe argued that although women did not think about the war in a way that was drastically different from men, some women thought “more than the men do about the suffering of its British victims, and do many things with various degrees of effectiveness and integrity to help relieve it.” Boothe endorsed the idea that women were more caring and nurturing than men. Further, she stated that both American business owners and factory workers, along with the wives of American businessmen and wartime workers, needed to work together in order to defeat Nazi Germany.[10] This was a fairly common perspective during the Second World War: Americans from all classes, races, and genders had to cooperate in order for the United States and its allies to defeat Germany and Japan.[11] While Boothe stated that American women had similar views to men in many ways, she also suggested that women’s maternal natures—as mothers to children and wives to husbands who would be killed in war—differentiated them from men. Thus, she engaged in a dialogue with issues of “equality vs. difference.”

Clare Boothe Luce grappled with similar ideas in later statements. In an unpublished article from the mid-1940s, she suggested that “every woman who has ever worked for a living is also painfully acquainted with the peculiar and subtle brand of ‘Jim Crowism,’ which is practiced on the members of her sex to keep them aware that they do not belong in a ‘man’s world.’” In her use of the “Jim Crow” idea, Luce implied that discrimination against professional and business women in the workplace was “almost as great” as prejudice against African Americans in the United States. She expressed support for female journalists whom, she argued, had played an important role in bringing news of the front to Americans at home during the Second World War. Luce expressed moderate feminist views in arguing for women to take on new and different positions in American society. Her views were moderate in the sense that she stressed women’s increased participation in jobs and public life that had previously been male-dominated, a view that many in American society, including some conservatives, came to support during the 1940s.[12] Luce argued that “it is 24 years since the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment gave women the right to vote. White women have made far more progress in the direction of political equality than the Negroes have.” Luce argued that women deserved a much larger role in all aspects of society. In particular, as a member of the US House of Representatives, Luce stated that she wanted to see many more women office holders, from both major political parties, in Congress.[13]

During her period of moderate conservatism,[14] we might see Luce as an “equal rights” feminist. She emphasized women’s equality with men on the basis that women possessed similar traits to men in terms of women’s intellectual and moral capabilities. Luce argued against separate women’s organizations and against separate women’s groups and auxiliaries. If women possessed a “radically different” view from men, then “why couldn’t men profit directly” from being part of a “joint committee” with women on issues of “commerce, civil improvement, and philanthropy.” This statement was made in the context of Luce’s discussion of a potential “women’s Chamber of Commerce,” which she opposed. She further suggested that if women did not possess a view that differed drastically from men, then society should not segregate women at all. In short, Luce asserted that women should have access to the same privileges as men. In the debate over “equality vs. difference” in contemporary feminism, Luce, at times, endorsed the “equality” label.[15]

Yet, in the draft of a speech written for a graduation ceremony at a Catholic girls’ school, made shortly after Luce’s conversion to Catholicism, she argued that “the proper role of women in our Atomic Age is—in obedience to the will of God—to mother the children of the Crucifixion.” Luce also stated that young Catholic women should take on new roles in helping war veterans and delinquent teenagers, as well as those who had been scarred by racial violence. She asserted that Catholic women should use their faith to take on roles outside of the home, although they should pursue vocations that reflected traditional women’s roles as caregivers and pious individuals. Luce advocated for Catholic women to help people outside of the home, but in a limited role; she also emphasized women’s support for, and submission to, the church.[16]

Indeed, in one particular passage, Luce argued that Catholic women should put their vocations as Catholics above that of marriage and family. She argued that “you may find that your Catholicism costs you a young man on whom you have set your heart, a job, a chance at a career.” Yet, she continued, “the moment you are required to make some small sacrifice, no less a great one, in the faith, and through the faith, you have begun to compromise with it.” A compromise, Luce said, should be unacceptable to the true Catholic woman. The church, for Luce, was a key part of a young woman’s life, a place where she could find her true self and make a contribution to society. Luce expressed a similar perspective to many “first-wave” feminists: women were morally superior, and more pious, than men. Women, then, needed to come out of the home and reshape the public world of politics in the image of the home, family, and church. Part of a woman’s duty was to the church; naturally, it followed from this perspective that the church represented one area where a Catholic woman had a pivotal role to play. Unlike her statements in 1945, here Luce argued for women’s role in public life on the basis of women being different from, and morally superior to, men, on the basis of women’s ability to bear and to nurture children.

Clare Boothe Luce’s views on the possibility of women’s advancement were thus contradictory. This was, and is, a fairly standard perspective for many conservative American women. More recent conservatives like Sarah Palin have argued that women should come out of the domestic sphere in order to strengthen right-wing views surrounding the home and family.[17] Like Luce, conservative women have argued that women should have access to the same legal rights as men; yet, female conservatives, both those from the suffrage generation and from the twenty-first century, have suggested that women bring special, maternal virtues that would help to reshape public society for the better.[18] Nancy Hewitt states that feminists focused on a wide range of issues, from abolition to labour rights, and not simply on suffrage and the right to hold public office.[19] Hewitt implies that historians of feminism must take a broad perspective on defining feminism, not limiting it to small, famous groups that historians have already studied. She also suggests that the “wave” metaphor does not completely hold as a means of explaining women’s political and social activity over time.[20] Building on Hewitt’s idea that women’s rights supporters focused on many different issues, we can make the argument that Luce expressed moderate and cautious feminist views. Thus, Luce’s views would fit into a “recasting” of American feminism, which would include conservative as well as liberal, or leftist, women. Ideologies from maternal, or “first-wave,” feminism survived the suffrage era and animated the views of many women, even conservative women, during the 1920–60 period. Clearly, conservative women like Luce flew the feminist flag during a time when many assumed that feminism had declined.[21]

Clare Boothe Luce and Roman Catholicism

Luce’s Roman Catholic faith played a significant role in her political life. In fact, Luce’s advocacy for the maintenance and strengthening of Catholicism in the United States helped American Catholics to integrate into mainstream American society.[22] Many Catholics during the 1940s–70s were Democratic voters. Catholics often identified the Democrats as the party that welcomed immigrant Catholic groups like the Irish, Italians, and Portuguese to the United States in the nineteenth century.[23] Luce hoped to win Catholic voters to the Republican ticket, a goal in which she succeeded, at least temporarily. As part of this strategy, she endorsed anticommunism. Writing in 1946, Luce argued that a Communist Party member, both overseas and in the United States, was a “man without a soul.” Communism was an atheistic, anti-Christian philosophy based on “materialism” and the idea that “man” was an “animal.” Equating Nazism and fascism with communism, Luce asserted that fascism was a “denial of the Old Testament,” while communism denied “both the Old Testament and the New Testament.” She stated that both ideologies represented an attack on the “Western conception of man as a child of God, a creature with a sovereign soul.” Luce’s statement supported anticommunist pronouncements about the atheistic nature of communism.[24]

Luce later linked anticommunism and Roman Catholicism as part of an attack on liberal and leftist intellectuals, stating that, “it is really no accident at all that the intellectuals of my own circle who most strongly deny any need of a personal faith are the ones most drawn, even today, to the Communist religion.” Luce argued that it was the faith in the Holy Trinity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit that would bring peace to the world, not materialism. She noted that Stalin’s Russia had seen the repression of the Christian church. In response to this, Luce argued that Catholics across the United States offered prayers for “the return of the Russian people to God.”[25] Luce’s view represented a common sentiment among conservative Christians in the United States. Many supported anticommunist measures, especially foreign intervention, as a method of returning communist countries to God.[26] Luce played a significant role in promoting a conservative vision of Catholicism in post–World War II America. As ambassador to Italy, Luce spoke out against the popular Italian Communist Party. In particular, she played a key role in lessening the popularity of communism and in assisting the conservative Christian Democratic Party. She negotiated with conservative voices in Italian society who criticized American incursions in Italy. Luce’s negotiations, in turn, helped to counteract anti-Americanism among Italian Marxists, and in the wider Italian society.[27]

In supporting the American government’s anticommunist strategy, Luce offers an example of how prominent women have played, often hidden, roles in shaping American domestic and foreign policy. Although she was not part of a coalition of any sort,[28] we might see Luce, and other conservative women, as being part of a “bridge” generation of women activists who linked the suffrage generation of 1880–1920 to “second-wave” feminists.[29] Luce supported suffrage rights and continued to endorse women’s rights, if cautiously, during the 1940s and 1950s, much like other conservative women’s groups such as the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) and the Business and Professional Women’s Club (BPW).[30] Luce’s brand of feminism had many limitations—she was a lone individual and did not build a movement—but we can see her perspective as part of a linkage from earlier women to those of the 1960s, even if Luce opposed much of what second-wave feminists fought for.[31]

Clare Boothe Luce and Social Conservatism

When American conservatism moved toward the New Right, Clare Boothe Luce’s views continued in the same vein. Prior to the 1960s, much like other male and female conservatives, Luce expressed no opinion on social issues like abortion, pornography, or crime. During the early 1960s, and continuing into the 1970s, Luce’s views began to change. Like other conservatives, her views seemed distant from young “New Left” activists. Many other Republican Party women, most notably Phyllis Schlafly, followed a similar path. Schlafly, too, while always a “values” conservative in her opposition to abortion, busing, and federally enforced civil rights, came to prominence during the 1960s and 1970s as perhaps the best-known conservative American woman. Schlafly exemplified “New Right” populist conservatism in its support for the traditional values of small-town and suburban American and its opposition to the “New Left” values of radical feminism, gay and lesbian rights, and forced racial integration. Thus, Luce’s views were of a piece with other right-wing women during this time, even if she was part of the Republican establishment. In contrast, Schlafly always stood outside of the corridors of power. Indeed, Schlafly criticized Republican Party and conservative movement leaders for endorsing mainstream candidates who represented the moderate “Eastern Establishment” and not heartland American values.[32]

Even during the early 1960s, Luce expressed what became known as “socially conservative” views in her opposition to forms of media that focused on sex, violence, and crime. Her views were likely an extension of 1950s-era concerns about young people turning to “delinquent” pursuits, a key idea in contemporary magazines, newspapers, and films. Luce expressed concern that the United States possessed a negative image in international affairs. According to Luce, this dislike stemmed from a number of reasons: America’s issues with racism, particularly against African Americans, envy over US domination of the world, and the perception of American decadence in its media. Luce argued that “the prodigious spate of our cheap movies, featuring sex, violence, and crime do almost as much damage to America’s image abroad as Communist propaganda.” She continued with the statement that “if the Communization of the world is achieved, historians will surely note that it was with a big assist from the American TV and the mass view, which supports its efforts so handsomely.” Luce’s statement dovetailed with those of other conservative women of the time like Phyllis Schlafly, who argued that modern forms of media—television, film theaters, and “crime comics”—contributed both to the corruption of youth domestically and to the sullying of the Western image abroad. Schlafly, and other populist conservatives, challenged Democrats and, especially, establishment Republican Party elites, for being overly conciliatory toward the Soviet Union, being weak on abortion and pro-life issues, and for endorsing, or at least not strongly opposing, the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), which Schlafly saw as an attack on the traditional vision of the nuclear family.[33] Similarly, conservatives argued that it was not only the threat of communism abroad that presented a challenge to American values, but also new, modern forms of media that held out the prospect of taking America’s youth away from traditional values of the husband-and-wife-centered “nuclear” family.[34]

Luce continued that “John Q. Public does not wish his image abroad to have a slightly ‘gangsterish,’ psychopathic, murderous expression.” Therefore, she noted, the American public had a responsibility to “stop himself from enjoying that image at home.” In short, Luce implied that American society—or, at least, some elements within American society—turned toward “lewd” forms of entertainment, thus leading the United States toward depravity and away from the path toward defeating communism. Luce argued that American business had a role to play in leading the public away from these entertainments, and, more importantly, not letting these forms of media pollute America’s image overseas. She hoped that “one could wish that we could find . . . some way consistent with free enterprise, some way which the entertainment industry would not consider censorship, to prevent the worst and cheapest of our movies and TV programs from travelling overseas.”[35] Thus, Luce hoped to play a role in winning the “hearts and minds” of people overseas who had a negative image of American foreign policy, and of America itself. Implicit in all of this was the notion that, if Americans did not follow a socially, morally, and sexually “pure” lifestyle—in essence, hostility to premarital and extramarital sex, homosexuality, and images of sex and violence in media—then communists and other subversives could take over the United States much more easily. Luce’s social conservatism came out in ways that were connected with her anticommunist foreign policy. Luce implied that women’s sexuality should be contained in the home and within the nuclear, heterosexual family, in much the same way that American foreign policy attempted to contain communism overseas.[36]

During her stay in Hawaii during the 1970s, Luce continued to comment on political matters, and her comments often turned toward socially conservative concerns. In a letter to the Honolulu Star-Bulletin in 1977, Luce spoke out against newspaper advertisements for “pornographic” movies. Specifically, Luce warned against printing photos that advertised a “gang bust” of a young woman. She asked the rhetorical question “how many publishers would carry ads for a class of films, which regularly depicted the debasement and torture of blacks, Jews, Irish, Chicanos?” The Los Angeles Times, Luce noted, had banned ads for pornographic films, and she encouraged the Star-Bulletin to do the same. Reflecting the values of social conservatives, which became a key part of New Christian Right groups like Jerry Falwell’s “Moral Majority,”[37] Luce addressed newspaper publishers and asked “how can they argue any longer that their papers are defending ‘freedom of expression’ by advertising an ‘indefensible product,’ whose central theme is the brutalization and degradation of the female body?” Luce’s remarks endorsed a kind of conservative feminism, borrowed from first-wave values of female propriety and virtue. Luce went on to ask the question: “would the publisher of a Honolulu paper run a ‘porn’ ad if it should turn out that the ‘gang bust’ victim of the film was his own teen-aged daughter?”[38]

In an earlier, unpublished manuscript, Luce expressed opposition to abortion, asserting that, in the early 1970s, between “20 and 40 million” illegal abortions took place each year. Luce argued that this was an insult to true morality and called for strict antiabortion laws to be maintained and extended.[39] Luce borrowed from radical feminist, anti-pornography perspectives.[40] Radical feminists from the 1960s and 1970s, in turn, expressed views that echoed first-wave feminist views: women were morally more virtuous, and purer, than men in their sexualities, moral values, and views on drinking, gambling, and prostitution.[41] Therefore, women needed to come out of the home to save society from men who had done a poor job of administering politics and life. Scholars have called this “social housekeeping.”[42] Since first-wave feminism was largely, if not exclusively, a movement of conservative women, Luce’s views were very much in the tradition of conservative feminism in the United States. Here, Luce’s views fell strongly on the “difference” side in the “equality vs. difference” debate. Women were morally more virtuous than men; therefore, women deserved a larger place in society, and protection from men, in recognition of women’s higher moral status. Thus, when the American Right attempted to combine social conservative and pro-capitalist values in the 1970s, Luce supported this perspective, even as she leavened her conservative views with a cautious endorsement of values borrowed from the suffrage era.[43] Her advocacy for women’s rights foreshadowed more recent conservative women like Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann.

Conclusion: Clare Boothe Luce, Feminist?

This article suggests that Clare Boothe Luce’s views were indicative of those of other right-wing women in the United States during Luce’s time in the public eye from the 1930s to the 1980s. Similarly, we have noted that Luce engaged in a debate on “equality vs. difference” in terms of women’s increased role in society. Initially, Luce largely held to the “equality” side of the debate: women deserved more rights by virtue of their similarities to men. Later, however, Luce borrowed ideas often expressed by first-wave feminists and argued that women’s moral differences from and superiority to men entitled women to increased engagement in society.[44] Clearly, first-wave feminist ideologies lasted much longer than scholars previously indicated.[45] In closing, the question must be asked: how can we understand Luce’s life in the context of the feminist movement, if at all? We might see right-wing women as being part of a trend toward “conservative feminism”: an endorsement of women’s involvement in public life, but with the explicit goal of promoting conservative social and economic values.[46] Luce cautiously supported having more women in public life even as her overall ideology was conservative. Yet, Luce opposed second-wave feminist views, and spoke out against increased sexual freedom. Women needed to come out of the home to “clean up” society and save it from communism, pornography, and other negative elements in modern life. Contemporary right-wing pundit Ann Coulter has stated that Luce is one of her political idols and we can see that Republican women like Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann owe much of their ideology to women like Luce, whether knowingly or not.[47] There seems to be a particularly “feminine” brand of conservatism in North American politics. Right-wing women in North America have supported anticommunism, “traditional” family values, and women’s advancement, although usually only for white, middle- or upper class women. Clare Boothe Luce was thus a foremother to more recent groups of right-wing women.

Similarly, Luce functioned as a kind of bridge between feminists of the suffrage era and those of the 1940s and 1950s, who continued to support the first-wave, maternal feminist viewpoint. Although not a coalition builder, Luce maintained her particular brand of conservative feminism during the 1940s and 1950s. Clearly, there was a substantial amount of political activism during this time period on the part of conservative, as well as liberal and leftist, women. Historians and scholars of all ideological stripes, both feminist and non-feminist, would do well to remember this as we debate the importance of a feminist analysis of politics in the wake of Hillary Clinton’s loss in the recent US Presidential election.[48]


Brian Thorn teaches English and History at Nipissing University in Ontario, Canada. His research interests centre on conservative and left-wing political movements in North America and gender studies. He is the author of From Left to Right: Maternalism and Women’s Political Activism in Postwar Canada (University of British Columbia Press, 2016).  

**This piece has been peer-reviewed


[1] Brian Thorn, “Clare Boothe Luce and the Evolution of American Conservatism,” ANAMNESIS Journal, February 13, 2017,

[2] The paper defines feminism in this manner to distinguish Luce’s brand of feminism from those of other supporters of women’s liberation, who defined feminism as an ideology that advocated equality for all groups of women. The definition of feminism as endorsing equality for all groups of women at all times seems rather narrow since it excludes many groups of feminists who did not fight for equality for all women. A definition of feminism as promoting increased rights for some women seems like an appropriate definition that encompasses many different groups and individuals whose views fall under the banner of feminism. See Brian T. Thorn, From Left to Right: Maternalism and Women’s Political Activism in Postwar Canada (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 2016), introduction. This paper uses the terms “feminism” and “women’s liberation movement” interchangeably.

[3] This was a branch of feminism, common during the 1960–80 period, which emphasized women’s social, civil, and workplace equality. The term “second wave” existed in opposition to “first-wave” feminism, which emphasized improvement to women’s official, legal status, including the right to vote and hold public office. Second wave feminism saw the increasing split of feminism into liberal, socialist, radical, and conservative wings. On the second wave, see Dennis A. Deslippe, “Rights, Not Roses”: Unions and the Rise of Working-Class Feminism, 1945–80 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2000); Alice Echols, Daring to Be Bad: Radical Feminism in America, 1967–1975 (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1989).

[4] To be fair, Luce never explicitly stated that minority or working-class women should not be allowed into public life; however, her papers hardly ever referenced these groups of women. Like other female conservatives, Luce’s writings and public statements emphasized women coming into public life but failed to indicate anything about race or class in terms of women’s issues.

[5] This term refers to a branch of feminism—prominent during the 1870–1920 period—that emphasized women gaining official, legal rights in society, most notably the right to vote. These feminists also focused on a diverse array of issues, notably labor rights, prostitution, temperance, gambling, and night work for women and children. While first-wave feminism’s leadership cadre tended to consist of white, middle- and upper-class women, this was not always or exclusively the case. Working-class, African American, and immigrant women also formed first-wave feminist organizations and worked outside of the home for the rights of women. First-wave feminism was a complex phenomenon that we should not see in simplistic terms. Although many recent feminist scholars state that it is difficult, if not impossible, to dispense with the “wave” metaphor as a mode of understanding women’s activism, they argue that the “wave” idea makes it difficult to see continuities and discontinuities among the different feminist waves. In essence, the “wave” idea suggests that there are narrow and discrete periods when certain kinds of women’s activism existed—for instance, the first wave’s focus on suffrage and the second wave’s focus on abortion rights—and history does not work in this manner. Ideas from first-wave feminism continued to be important to women’s activists during the 1960s and 1970s, and ideas from the second wave maintained their importance for many feminists during the 1990s and beyond. Similarly, within the three feminist waves, many diverse opinions and views existed; these movements were far from monolithic. See, most notably, Nancy F. Cott, The Grounding of Modern Feminism (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1989); Ellen Carol DuBois, Feminism and Suffrage: The Emergence of an Independent Women’s Movement in America, 1848–1869 (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1999); Glenda Elizabeth Gilmore, Gender and Jim Crow: Women and the Politics of White Supremacy in North Carolina, 1896–1920 (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1996); Aileen S. Kraditor, The Ideas of the Woman Suffrage Movement: 1890–1920 (New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1981).

[6] On conservative and reactionary women internationally, there is now a substantial literature. See, in particular, Paola Bacchetta and Margaret Power, eds., Right-Wing Women: From Conservatives to Extremists around the World (London: Routledge, 2002); Kathleen M. Blee and Sandra McGee Deutsch, eds., Women of the Right: Comparisons and Interplay across Borders (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2012); Glen Jeannsonne, Women of the Far Right: The Mothers’ Movement and World War II (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997); Michelle M. Nickerson, Mothers of Conservatism: Women and the Postwar Right (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2012); Kevin Passmore, ed., Women, Gender, and Fascism in Europe, 1919–1945 (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2003).

[7] Paul, an antiwar Quaker and graduate of Swarthmore College, was the leader of the first-wave US women’s organization, the National Women’s Party (NWP). She submitted the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA)—a constitutional amendment that, if passed, would have struck down all federal and state laws that discriminated against women—to congress in 1923, and in every year afterward until her death. Paul supported the rights of working-class women and fought at the local and national level for suffrage rights. She later fought for women’s rights on the international stage and had moved to an anticommunist perspective by the 1950s. Paul’s view of women’s rights was based on strict equality between women and men under the law. See Cott, Grounding of Modern Feminism, 53–57, 120–26, 136–42; Ellen Carol DuBois, Woman Suffrage and Women’s Rights (New York: New York University Press, 1998), 243–44, 291–92; Ruth Rosen, The World Split Open: How the Modern Women’s Movement Changed America (New York: Viking, 2000), 27, 66, 332–33; Leila J. Rupp, Worlds of Women: The Making of an International Women’s Movement (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1997), 141–42, 148–49.

[8] I use “isolationist” to refer to anyone who favoured US nonintervention—militarily or economically—in other nations. See Justus Doenecke, Not to the Swift: The Old Isolationists in the Cold War Era (Lewisburg, PA: Bucknell University Press, 1979), introduction.

[9] I define maternalism as an idea that portrayed women as being “natural” wives and mothers. Moreover, women and men who subscribed to a maternalist ideology argued that activists should use the idea of women as natural caregivers to support an increase in women’s activity in the public sphere of politics and economics. Ironically, maternalism—a key aspect of first-wave feminism—emphasized women’s maternal nature but with the intention of attempting to reshape the public sphere in the image of the home and family. See Thorn, From Left to Right, introduction.

[10] Clare Boothe, “What Are American Women Thinking about the War,” n.d., unpublished MSS. Luce Papers, box 314, File 12. Given that she writes as “Clare Boothe” here and discusses the Second World War as an ongoing, contemporary event, Luce wrote this manuscript during the 1941–45 years.

[11] John Morton Blum, V Was for Victory: Politics and American Culture During World War II (New York: Harcourt Brace, 1976), 13–14, 21–31.

[12] On the changing nature of views on women’s participation in the work force, and in other areas of public life, see Leisa D. Meyer, Creating G. I. Jane: Sexuality and Power in the Women’s Army Corps During World War II (New York: Columbia University Press, 1996), 3, 9, 181; Leila J. Rupp, Mobilizing Women for War: German and American Propaganda, 1939–1945 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1978), 137–81. The huge increase in women’s participation in the paid work force, as a result of the demands of the Second World War, gradually led to a grudging acceptance of women taking on new roles outside of the home. By July 1944, 19 million women had paid employment; this figure represented an increase of 47 percent from the March 1940 level. There were approximately 12 million women in the paid labor force in 1940. After the Second World War, women’s participation in the paid labor force continued to grow, reaching 41 percent by 1968. See Karen Anderson, Wartime Women: Sex Roles, Family Relations, and the Status of Women During World War II (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1981), 4, 7, 174–78; D’Ann Campbell, Women at War with America: Private Lives in a Patriotic Era (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1984), 103, 230–38.

[13] Clare Boothe Luce, unpublished MSS on women, n.d., Luce Papers, box 314, file 12. From the references made to the end of the Second World War, I conclude that this manuscript was written during 1945.

[14] Luce’s ideology, and her status within the conservative movement and the Republican Party, was explained in an earlier article. See Thorn, “Clare Boothe Luce.”

[15] Luce, unpublished MSS on women. Here, Luce clearly comes out against separate female organizations. Not all American women and feminists, even conservative feminists, thought in the same way. See Estelle Freedman, “Separatism as Strategy: Female Institution Building and American Feminism, 1870–1930,” Feminist Studies 5, no. 3 (Autumn 1979): 512–29.

[16] Clare Boothe Luce, Speech to Graduating Class of St. Mary’s School, n.d., Luce Papers, box 314, File 12. The context of the speech suggests that this occurred during the late 1940s.

[17] Nickerson, Mothers of Conservatism, 71-3, 137, 167; Ronnee Schreiber, Righting Feminism: Conservative Women and American Politics, rev. ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012).

[18] Cott, The Grounding of Modern Feminism, 20–21; Nickerson, Mothers of Conservatism, 169–74; June Melby Benowitz, Days of Discontent: American Women and Right-Wing Politics, 1933–1945 (DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 2002).

[19] Nancy Hewitt, “From Seneca Falls to Suffrage? Reimagining a ‘Master Narrative’ in US Women’s History,” in Nancy Hewitt, ed., No Permanent Waves: Recasting Histories of US Feminism (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2010), 16–25. Hewitt’s focus is on the 1848–1920 years, but I believe that her comments apply to the more recent period as well.

[20] Ibid, 25–32.

[21] Other feminist scholars who argue that the 1920–60 years saw a significant amount of feminist activism include Dorothy Sue Cobble, The Other Women’s Movement: Workplace Justice and Social Rights in Modern America (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2004); Barbara Ransby, Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement: A Radical Democratic Vision (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2002); Kate Weigand, Red Feminism: American Communism and the Making of Women’s Liberation (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001). These scholars focus on liberal, leftist, and African American women. Conservative women, too, fought for women’s rights during the 1920–60 years.

[22] Prior to the 1960s, many American Catholics lived in isolation and did not see themselves as part of mainstream American culture. A number of events during the 1960s—most famously John F. Kennedy’s election to the presidency—began to change this. See Mark S. Massa, Catholics and American Culture: Fulton Sheen, Dorothy Day, and the Notre Dame Football Team (New York: Crossroad Publishing, 2001).

[23] Kristin E. Heyer, Mark J. Rozell, and Michael A. Genovese, Catholics and Politics: The Dynamic Tension between Faith and Power (Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 2008), 17.

[24] Clare Boothe Luce, “Letter to Editor,” New York Herald Tribune, November 17, 1946.

[25] Clare Boothe Luce, unpublished MSS on Catholicism and Communism, n.d., Luce Papers, box 316, file 3. From the references to her recent conversion to Catholicism, I assume that this document was written during the late 1940s. At one point, Luce references an event occurring in 1947.

[26] Patrick Allitt, Catholic Intellectuals and Conservative Politics in America, 1950–1985 (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1993).

[27] Alessandro Brogi, “Ambassador Clare Boothe Luce and the Evolution of Psychological Warfare in Italy,” Cold War History 12, no. 2 (2012): 269–94; Mario Del Pero, “American Pressures and Their Containment in Italy during the Ambassadorship of Clare Boothe Luce, 1953–1956,” Diplomatic History 28, no. 3 (2004): 407–39. Luce’s interventions against the Italian Communist Party were part of a successful attempt by the American government, notably the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), to defeat communist and leftist ideals in Italy. In the 1948 Italian elections, the Italian Communist Party suffered a major defeat, leading to the subsequent domination of the Christian Democratic Party in Italian politics.

[28] Stephanie Gilmore, “Thinking about Feminist Coalitions,” in Stephanie Gilmore, ed., Feminist Coalitions: Historical Perspectives on Second-Wave Feminism in the United States (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2008), 1–15.

[29] For critiques of the “wave” metaphor, see the essays in Hewitt, No Permanent Waves.

[30] Susan Lynn, Progressive Women in Conservative Times: Racial Justice, Peace, and Feminism, 1945 to the 1960s (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1992), 111–40; Leila Rupp and Verta Taylor, Survival in the Doldrums: The American Women’s Rights Movement, 1945 to the 1960s (New York: Oxford University Press, 1987), 24–44, 46–54.

[31] Most, though not all, second-wave feminists could be described as “liberal” or even “leftist.” See Lynn, Progressive Women in Conservative Times, 94–110, 141–77.

[32] On Schlafly, see Donald T. Critchlow, Phyllis Schlafly and Grassroots Conservatism: A Woman’s Crusade (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2005); Catherine E. Rymph, Republican Women: Feminism and Conservatism from Suffrage through to the Rise of the New Right (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2006); Phyllis Schlafly, A Choice Not an Echo, 50th anniversary ed. (1964; repr., Washington, DC: Regnery Publishing, 2014).

[33] Carol Felsenthal, The Sweetheart of the Silent Majority: The Biography of Phyllis Schlafly (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1981), 222–57; Rosen, The World Split Open, 332–33; Schlafly, Choice, 159–63, 171–77.

[34] This critique of modern media was very common among conservatives, not only in the United States, but also internationally. See Mary Louise Adams, The Trouble with Normal: Postwar Youth and the Making of Heterosexuality (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1997); Thorn, From Left to Right, ch. 6.

[35] Clare Boothe Luce, “America’s Image Abroad,” Modern Age: A Conservative Review 5, no. 1 (Winter 1960–61): 59. Luce Papers, box 297, File 9.

[36] This idea comes out in Elaine Tyler May, Homeward Bound: American Families in the Cold War Era, rev. ed. (New York: Basic Books, 2008).

[37] Falwell founded the Moral Majority movement of conservative Christians in 1979 in large part to support conservative Christians who ran for office at the state and federal levels. The organization dissolved at the end of the 1980s. For background, see Sara Diamond, Spiritual Warfare: The Politics of the Christian Right (Boston: South End Press, 1999).

[38] Clare Boothe Luce, “Letter to the Editor,” Honolulu Star-Bulletin, September 24, 1977.

[39] Clare Boothe Luce, review of David Callahan, Abortion Law, Choice and Morality, September 22, 1970, Luce Papers, box 296, file 8. Luce’s review was, of course, written before the landmark Roe V. Wade Supreme Court Decision of 1973 that legalized abortion at the federal level in the United States.

[40] See especially Andrea Dworkin, Pornography: Men Possessing Women (New York: Perigee Books, 1981).

[41] For background on this, see Mariana Valverde, The Age of Light, Soap, and Water: Moral Reform in English Canada, 1885–1925, rev. ed. (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2008).

[42] Many texts could be cited here. See especially Regina G. Kunzel, Fallen Women, Problem Girls: Unmarried Mothers and the Professionalization of Social Work, 1890–1945 (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1995); Lynda J. Rynbrandt, Caroline Bartlett Crane and Progressive Reform: Social Housekeeping as Sociology (London: Routledge, 1998).

[43] For a useful summary of the “traditionalist” and “pro-business” views of the right see Lisa McGirr, Suburban Warriors: The Origins of the New American Right, rev. ed. (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2015).

[44] For an examination of how other groups of conservative women used first-wave feminist values see Thorn, From Left to Right.

[45] For example, works like Cott, Grounding of Modern Feminism; DuBois, Woman Suffrage and Women’s Rights; and Rosen, World Split Open presuppose a significant rupture between first- and second-wave feminist ideologies. The essays in Hewitt, No Permanent Waves offer a different perspective, but this view is fairly new to feminist scholarship.

[46] Nickerson, Mothers of Conservatism, 174.

[47] David T. Courtwright, No Right Turn: Conservative Politics in a Liberal America (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2010), 230.

[48] See, for example, from a leftist perspective, Jessa Crispin, Why I Am Not a Feminist: A Feminist Manifesto (New York: Melville House Books, 2017).