Nancy Reagan

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Nancy Davis Reagan
First Lady of the United States
In office
January 20, 1981 – January 20, 1989
Preceded by Rosalynn Carter
Succeeded by Barbara Bush
First Lady of California
In office
January 3, 1967 – January 7, 1975
Preceded by Bernice Layne
Succeeded by Gloria Saatjian
Personal details
Born July 6, 1921 (1921-07-06) (age 92)
Manhattan, New York County, New York, U.S.
Spouse(s) Ronald Reagan (m. 1952–2004, his death)
Relations Kenneth Seymour Robbins and Edith Luckett
Children Patti, Ron
Alma mater Smith College
Occupation First Lady of the United States
Religion Presbyterian
Signature

Nancy Davis Reagan (born Anne Frances Robbins; July 6, 1921) is the widow of Ronald Reagan, the 40th President of the United States and was First Lady of the United States from 1981 to 1989.

Reagan was born in Manhattan, New York County, New York. Her parents divorced soon after her birth and she grew up in Maryland. In Maryland, she lived with an aunt and uncle while her mother pursued acting jobs. She was an actress in Hollywood during the 1940s and 1950s. She starred in movies such as, Donovan's Brain, Night Into Morning and Hellcats of the Navy. In 1952, she married Ronald Reagan who was then president of the Screen Actors Guild, and they had two children. Reagan was the First Lady of California when her husband was Governor from 1967 to 1975. She became involved with the Foster Grandparents Program.

Nancy Reagan became First Lady of the United States in January 1981 after her husband's election. She was criticized in his first term due to her decision to replace the White House china. Her interest in high-end fashion had much attention and criticism. She founded the drug awareness campaign, "Just Say No". She always protected her husband and controversy occurred when it was revealed in 1988 that she had consulted an astrologer to assist in planning the president's schedule after the 1981 assassination attempt on her husband. She had a strong influence on her husband. She played a role in a few of his personnel and diplomatic decisions.

The Reagans left the White House in 1989. Nancy devoted most of her time to caring for her ill husband who was diagnosed in 1994 with Alzheimer's disease until his death in 2004. Nancy Reagan has remained active within the Reagan Library and in politics, mainly for support of embryonic stem cell research.

Early life[change | edit source]

She was born in Manhattan, New York County, New York. Her birthname was Anne Frances Robbins.[1] The names of her parents were Kenneth Seymour Robbins and Edith Luckett. Edith Luckett was an actress. When Nancy was six years old, her mother married Dr. Loyal Davis. Dr. Loyal Davis was a neurosurgeon. Dr. Davis adopted Nancy as his daughter when she was 16 years old.[1] She changed her name to Nancy Davis because this.[1] She spent her childhood in Chicago, Illinois. She was also goddaughter of Russian-born silent film star Alla Nazimova. Nancy studied at Girls' Latin School and at Smith College in Massachusetts. From Smith College, she majored in theater.

Actress[change | edit source]

After her graduation, she became an actress. She acted in many plays and movies. One of them was the hit musical Lute Song. She became famous as Nancy Davis. She performed in 11 films from 1949 to 1956. In a movie named Hellcats of the Navy (1957), she played opposite her husband. Her last film was 1958's Crash Landing. After this, she appeared in television dramas until 1962. After 1962, she retired as an actor.

In most of her roles in plays and movies, Nancy Davis played decent characters.

Marriage and family[change | edit source]

Newlyweds Ronald and Nancy Reagan, 1952
The Reagan Family, 1967

She met Ronald Reagan in 1951. At that time Reagan was the president of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG). Another actress with the same name (of Nancy) had appeared in a Hollywood blacklist. This name confusion had created problems for Nancy. Anyone with his or her name in the Hollywood blacklist was unable to get any work in any movie. As she would not get any roles due to the name in the Hollywood blacklist, she met Reagan to clear this issue. Over a period of time, they came closer to each other. They married on 4th March 1952 in Los Angeles, California. Nancy once remembered: "My life really began when I married my husband." [2]

The Reagans had two children. She gave birth to a daughter Patti Davis on October 21, 1952, seven months after the couple's wedding. She gave birth to a son named Ron Reagan on May 20, 1958. Nancy Reagan is also stepmother to Michael Reagan and the late Maureen Reagan, the children of Ronald Reagan's first marriage to actress Jane Wyman.

California First Lady[change | edit source]

Ronald Reagan was governor of California for two terms, from 1967 to 1975. During this period, Nancy Reagan was the First Lady of California.

The officials of the fire department had described official residence of the Governor in Sacramento, California as a “firetrap”. She, therefore, shifted to a wealthy suburb. Some people thought the shifting as an arrogant step.

She was very active as the First lady of California. She visited war veterans, the elderly persons, and the handicapped persons. She also worked with many groups working for charity. One such program was the Foster Grandparent Program. She continued her association with the Foster grandparent program when she came to the Washington as the First Lady of the United States.

The First Lady[change | edit source]

Nancy at Ronald Reagan's inauguration, 1981

When Ronald Reagan became the president of the United States in 1981, Nancy Reagan began her role actively as the First Lady.

Nancy Reagan's speech "Just say no"

In her early years as the First Lady, a private foundation purchased new dishware for the White House. The cost was $ 200,000. This attracted bad publicity, as the US economy was facing recession at that time. She also used expensive fashion. This also attracted bad publicity sometimes. However, once in 1982 at Gridiron Club, she dressed in ragged clothes and sang "Second-Hand Rose". [2]. This lessened the criticism to some extent.

Nancy Reagan took close interest in the affairs of the White House. Some people believe that she exercised some influence over many matters, particularly during her husband’s second term as the President of the United States. People also remember her for conservative fashions copied by many women of her time. She was also against use of drugs by young persons.

She also got interested in astrology as the First Lady. She used the services of Joan Quigley who was an astrologer. In 1981, her husband faced an assassination attempt. This made Nancy rely on astrology and she tried to influence appointments and movements of her husband based on astrology. At that time the White House Chief of Staff was Donald Regan. He did not find this very useful. There was a struggle between Donald Regan and the First Lady. Donald Regan resigned in 1987.

In October 1987, physicians found that Nancy Reagan had breast cancer. She underwent an operation, mastectomy.

In 1991, Kitty Kelley wrote a book about her. The book’s name is Nancy Reagan: The Unauthorized Biography. The book became very famous and sold many copies. The book gives certain details like the former First Lady's association with astrology and White House meetings with Frank Sinatra.

In 1983 Reagan, Henry Kissinger (former Secretary of State) and philanthropists Barbara and Marvin Davis, appeared in an episode of the very popular soap opera Dynasty (TV series). In addition, Reagan appeared as herself in an episode of the popular sitcom Diff'rent Strokes to underscore her support for her "Just Say No" anti-drug campaign.

Later life[change | edit source]

Reagan in May 2005

Nancy Reagan currently resides in Bel Air, Los Angeles, California. She spent much of her time caring for her husband who was suffering from Alzheimer's disease. Ronald Reagan died in their Bel Air home on June 5, 2004. She requested President George W. Bush to support research in the hopes that such research would lead to a cure for Alzheimer's disease.

In 2004, Bob Colacello wrote a book "Ronnie and Nancy: Their Path to the White House, 1911-1980", published by Warner Books.

In 2005 she had gone to London to visit Margaret Thatcher and Charles, Prince of Wales. There she slipped in her hotel room and had to undergo treatment in a hospital.

In popular culture[change | edit source]

  • She is played by Jane Fonda in the 2013 movie The Butler. Alan Rickman plays her husband Ronald.
  • Mission of Burma's 2006 album, The Obliterati, has a song named "Nancy Reagan's Head". The song has this line: "I'm haunted by the freakish size of Nancy Reagan's head / no way that thing came with that body."
  • Sun City Girls is a group of singers. In 1987 they released an album, Horse Cock Phepner. The album had a song named "Nancy Reagan".

References[change | edit source]

Other websites[change | edit source]