Nancy Davis Reagan (born Anne Frances ‘Nancy’ Robbins) was married to Ronald Reagan, the 40th President of the United States, and functioned as America’s First Lady in the period 1981-1989. Nancy was an actress and became famed for her fight against the use of drugs in America. She was born in Flushing, New York, in 1921, July 6th, but grew up in Bethesda, MD, with an uncle as her mother was continuing a career as an actor.
Nancy went to Chicago’s Girls’ Latin School and later earned a B.A in Drama from Smith College in Massachusetts in 1943. After a few other jobs, Nancy eventually landed acting roles and made her Broadway debut in 1946 alongside Mary Martin and Yul Brynner in the musical ‘Lute Song.’
She got a contract in Hollywood with MGM Studios and was very surprised in 1949 to see her name on a ‘communist sympathizers’ listing and was seeking help from the American Screen Actors Guild, with president Ronald Reagan. After Ronald had assured her that she was professionally safe, the two started dating to get married in 1952, on March 4th at the Little Brown Church in San Fernando Valley, California.
Nancy played alongside Ronald in ‘Hellcats in the Navy’ (1957), but soon gave up on acting to focus on upbringing Ronald’s children from a former marriage (Maureen and Michael), and the couple also had two children (Patti and Ron).
As Ronald was working hard towards a career in politics, Nancy started to set up relationships with important businessmen in Southern California. In 1966, Ronald became governor of California, and Nancy began to help veterans from the Vietnam war, and also headed the Foster Grandparents program, where special-needs children were paired with senior citizens.
In 1980, Ronald was elected to the presidency, and Nancy started to refurbish the White House’s private upstairs quarters, started her famed anti-drug campaign ‘Just Say No’, and hosted an international conference on drug abuse in 1985 that was attended by first ladies of seventeen countries.
During her eight years in the White House, Nancy had to deal with several crises as in 1981, shortly after he had taken office, Ronald got shot in an (unsuccessful) assassination attempt, and she had to undergo a mastectomy when breast cancer was found in 1987. Nancy was working hard to protect Ronald’s public image and well-being and she had a strong influence on the president’s schedule and his selection of cabinet members.
In 1989, the Reagans left the White House to retire in Bel Air, California, where she wrote ‘My Turn’, her autobiography and established the ‘Nancy Reagan Foundation’ to help drug prevention efforts, and together with Ronald, she opened the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in 1991 in California’s Simi Valley.
In 1994, Ronald Reagan made public that he suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, and Nancy took care of her husband till he passed away in June 2004. Nancy started to support embryonic stem-cell research strongly, and pressed Congress to raise federal funding,
In her twilight years, she devoted much of her time to the expansion the Reagan Presidential Library and made a rare appearance at the White House in 2009 to witness the signing of the Reagan Centennial Commission Act. Nancy Reagan, at the age of 94, died a natural death on March 6, 2016.