Biography for Nancy Reagan
Nancy Reagan is the widow of Ronald Reagan, who was president of the United States from January 1981 to January 1989. Before marriage, she was an actress on the stage and screen. As first lady, she was a strong advocate for helping disadvantaged children and eliminating drug abuse, causes she continues to work for today. Reagan was born Anne Frances Robbins on July 6, 1923 in New York City. Her mother, Edith Luckett, an actress on the stage, nicknamed her Nancy shortly after she was born. Her father, Kenneth Robbins, was a playboy from a wealthy New Jersey family. He deserted the family shortly after Reagan was born, and the couple divorced some months later. Edith found that life in the theater was not acceptable for raising a child and arranged to have her sister in Bethesda, Maryland raise her. She lived with the family until she was six. In 1929, Reagan's mother married Loyal Davis, a Chicago neurosurgeon, and Reagan moved to Chicago to be with them. Davis adopted her when she was 14 years old. Her childhood in Chicago was mostly a happy one; she swam in Lake Michigan, attended summer camp, and went to the theater. For high school, she attended the Girls Latin School, where she acted in school plays. She also attended Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, majoring in drama. After graduation in 1943, Reagan became an actress, initially on the New York stage. She first appeared professionally in Ramshackle Inn, then in both the traveling cast and the Broadway cast of Lute Song. She had an opportunity to go to Hollywood, California to act in a movie, and she stayed. In all, Reagan appeared in 11 movies, starting with Shadow on the Wall in 1949. Other notable films included East Side, West Side (1949), Night into Morning (1951), and Donovan's Brain (1953). In 1957, she played opposite Ronald Reagan in her last movie, Hellcats of the Navy. Reagan first met her future husband in 1951 while he was president of the Screen Actors Guild, because she was receiving unwanted communist literature and wanted help in stopping it. Although he had been married to Jane Wyman, they had divorced in 1948. After a short courtship, the Reagans were married on March 4, 1952 in Los Angeles. They had two children, Patricia Ann in 1952 and Ronald Prescott in 1958. Reagan retired from acting to devote her time to her family's needs. In 1966, Ronald Reagan ran for governor of California as a Republican and won. Reagan actively campaigned for him. They moved to the governor's mansion in Sacramento, California in January 1967 and remained there until 1975. While in Sacramento, Reagan worked extensively with humanitarian organizations that supported veterans, the elderly, and the physically or mentally handicapped. She also became active for the first time in the Foster Grandparents Program, which uses retired couples over 60 to help retarded children living in hospitals or other institutions. She has continued to be a major helper and fund-raiser for this program. In the election of 1980, Reagan's husband entered the race for president as a Republican candidate. Again, Reagan was an active and enthusiastic campaigner, traveling with him and making speeches. He won the election, and the family moved to Washington, D.C. in January 1981. They lived in the White House until January 1989. In March 1981, Reagan suffered the first of several family tragedies. President Reagan was shot in an assassination attempt and was in serious condition, requiring a complex operation and a recovery of several months. In addition to taking care of him, Reagan acted as his intermediary with various staff and government officials. Then, in October 1987, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and had a mastectomy. The family tried to keep the operation from the press, so many people were not aware of her illness. Reagan's mother also died in 1987. As first lady, Reagan continued to promote programs to help veterans, the elderly, and the handicapped. She was also a strong advocate against the use of illegal drugs, especially among young people. In 1985, she hosted a conference at the White House attended by the first ladies of 17 countries to focus international attention on the problems resulting from illegal drugs. The slogan she used in promoting this program, "Just Say NO," was nationally adopted for the movement. She also continued to promote the Foster Grandparents Program. White House social events were known to be elegant affairs that required formal dress. The designer gowns Reagan wore at those affairs became her trademark. She also encouraged the performing arts while first lady, bringing young performers into the White House to showcase their talents. She helped create a PBS television series called In Performance at the White House. After leaving the White House in January 1989, the Reagans moved back to their home in Pacific Palisades, California, near Los Angeles, and later to their ranch in Santa Ynez, California near Santa Barbara. Reagan has authored two books, To Love a Child (1982), which discusses the Foster Grandparents Program, and My Turn: The Memoirs of Nancy Reagan (1989), which describes her life in the White House. In 1994, former president Reagan revealed his affliction with Alzheimer's disease, which took his life 10 years later on June 5, 2004. During that time, Reagan worked on her husband's behalf to bring national attention to that debilitating disease and continued her efforts to eliminate drug abuse and help disadvantaged children.