Thelma Catherine ‘Pat’ Nixon (born Ryan) was the wife of Richard Nixon, the 37th U.S. President. She was serving as America’s First Lady from 1969 to 1974. In her period as first lady, Pat Nixon was traveling long distances, and she was very focused on volunteer activities.
She had gotten the name ‘Pat’ because her father, from Irish descent. wanted to celebrate his daughter’s birthday this way which was on St. Patrick’s Day’s eve. She and Richard met for the first time when they appeared together in ‘The Dark Tower’ at the Little Theater Group in Whittier.
Pat Nixon supported her husband’s political life very actively, both during his vice presidency and his presidency, traveling all across the country with him while getting involved in volunteerism. Pat received little publicity for her work, though she was receiving more donations, valuable furniture, and exclusive artwork for the White House than Jacqueline Kennedy did a few years later. Pat was born in Ely, a small Nevada mining town in 1912, but the Ryan family later moved to Artesia, California, to start a truck farm.
Both her parents died when she was still pretty young, so Pat had to take on the farm and household chores, and she additionally had a morning job make sure the family could pay its bills. In 1932, at the age of 18, Pat Nixon went east to find work with the Catholic Sisters of Charity, where she also lived to save money for a college education.
In 1934, Pat came back to California to study at the University of Southern California, and here she earned a degree in merchandising to graduate, cum laude (1937).
She started teaching in Whittier, and while auditioning for a play in 1937, she met Richard Nixon who had just graduated from Duke Law School graduate and ran his own practice, and the young couple married two years later. The couple had two daughters while Richard was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.
As American First Lady, Pat Nixon is well-remembered for collecting all sorts of valuable art works and furnishings, and for turning the White House into a more accessible place for to the public.
After her husband had to resign in 1974, Pat Nixon was avoiding the press and she very rarely appeared in public. Following Richard’s resignation as president, Pat and her husband moved to San Clemente, California, but the following years were very difficult for her.
Richard Nixon was wrestling with a lot of legal issues in relation to his resignation, and he was badly suffering from poor physical health and had to cope with severe depressions. Pat had her physical issues as well. She had a stroke in 1976, which took away the use of her body’s left side and her speech, although this was temporarily.
In the early 1980’s though, a second stroke really hit her bad, and consequently, Pat became very reluctant to put herself in the spotlight. She rarely made public appearances during the last twenty years of her life, until she passed away in 1993.