Reagan, Nancy, 1921-2016

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Originally a Broadway actress, Nancy Davis Reagan served as First Lady from 1981 to 1989. She served alongside her husband, President Ronald Reagan, and is remembered for her passionate advocacy for decreasing drug and alcohol abuse.

“My life really began when I married my husband,” says Nancy Reagan, who in the 1950’s happily gave up an acting career for a permanent role as the wife of Ronald Reagan and mother to their children. Her story actually begins in New York City, her birthplace. She was born on July 6, 1921.

When the future First Lady was six, her mother, Edith–a stage actress–married Dr. Loyal Davis, a neurosurgeon. Dr. Davis adopted Nancy, and she grew up in Chicago. It was a happy time: summer camp, tennis, swimming, dancing. She received her formal education at Girls’ Latin School and at Smith College in Massachusetts, where she majored in theater.

Soon after graduation she became a professional actress. She toured with a road company, then landed a role on Broadway in the hit musical Lute Song. More parts followed. One performance drew an offer from Hollywood. Billed as Nancy Davis, she performed in 11 films from 1949 to 1956. Her first screen role was in Shadow on the Wall. Other releases included The Next Voice Your Hear and East Side, West Side. In her last movie, Hellcats of the Navy, she played opposite her husband.

She had met Ronald Reagan in 1951, when he was president of the Screen Actors Guild. The following year they were married in a simple ceremony in Los Angeles in the Little Brown Church in the Valley. Mrs. Reagan soon retired from making movies so she “could be the wife I wanted to be…A woman’s real happiness and real fulfillment come from within the home with her husband and children,” she says. President and Mrs. Reagan had a daughter, Patricia Ann, and a son, Ronald Prescott.

While her husband was Governor of California from 1967 to 1975, she worked with numerous charitable groups. She spent many hours visiting veterans, the elderly, and the emotionally and physically handicapped. These people continued to interest her as First Lady. She gave her support to the Foster Grandparent Program, the subject of her 1982 book, To Love A Child. Increasingly, she concentrated on the fight against drug and alcohol abuse among young people. She visited prevention and rehabilitation centers, and in 1985 she held a conference at the White House for First Ladies of 17 countries to focus international attention on this problem.

Mrs. Reagan shared her lifelong interest in the arts with the nation by using the Executive Mansion as a showcase for talented young performers in the PBS television series “In Performance at the White House.” In her first year in the mansion she directed a major renovation of the second- and third-floor quarters.

While living in retirement in California, Nancy continued to work on her campaign to teach children to “just say no” to drugs. In her book My Turn, published in 1989, she gave her own account of her life in the White House. Through the joys and sorrows of those days, including the assassination attempt on her husband, Nancy Reagan held fast to her belief in love, honesty, and selflessness. “The ideals have endured because they are right and are no less right today than yesterday.”

Nancy Reagan died at home in Los Angeles on March 6, 2016. She is buried along side her husband at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California.

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Mettler (Raymond) Bear Creek Winery Collection, 1934-1974 San Joaquin County Museum.
referencedIn Wilson, Mary Faith, 1920-1996. Mary Faith Wilson collection, 1816-1994. Georgia Historical Society
referencedIn Michel, Don, 1931-. Don Michel "Insight" Radio Program collection, 1960-1978. Southern Illinois University, Morris Library
referencedIn Papers, (inclusive), (bulk), 1939-2004, 1955-1989 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Eugene Swarzwald, Pictorial California and the Pacific, Collection of Photographs, 1909-ca.1968, bulk ca. 1925-1968 The Huntington Library
referencedIn Brockhoff, Adele C. Adele C. Brockhoff letters, 1946-1981. Columbia University in the City of New York, Columbia University Libraries
referencedIn Just Say No Campaign collection, (bulk 1985-1992), 1985-1996 John Hay Library, Special Collections
referencedIn Hannaford, Peter. Peter Hannaford papers, 1949-2010. Stanford University, Hoover Institution Library
referencedIn John Eldon Thayer collection of motion picture memorabilia, 1916-1979. Harvard Theatre Collection, Houghton Library, Harvard College Library, Harvard University.
referencedIn Donald T. Regan Papers, 1919-1993, (bulk 1981-1987) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
referencedIn Harvard Law School Forums Records Harvard Law School Library, Harvard University.
referencedIn Records of the American Battle Monuments Commission. 1918 - 1995. Moving Images Relating to American War Cemeteries and Memorials. 1937 - 1984. D-Day June 6, 1944
referencedIn Milton Caniff Collection, 1805-2007, 1910-1988 The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum
referencedIn Lee, Gary A. (Gary Alcide), b. 1933. Gary A. Lee papers, 1981. Cornell University Library
referencedIn Curley, V. Kenneth, Bro., F.S.C. [Letter, 2002 Aug. 11 : to Fred Rogers]. Saint Vincent College, Saint Vincent Library
creatorOf Reagan, Nancy, 1923-. Miscellaneous papers. Jacksonville University, Carl S. Swisher Library
referencedIn Gore Vidal papers, 1850-2020 (inclusive), 1936-2008 (bulk) Houghton Library
referencedIn Deaver & Hannaford, Inc. Deaver & Hannaford records, 1960-2011. Stanford University, Hoover Institution Library
referencedIn White House Photographic Collection. 1/20/1981 - 1/20/1989. Reagan White House Photographs
referencedIn Marguerite Yourcenar additional papers, 1842-1996. Houghton Library
referencedIn Wally McNamee Photographic Archive, AR2002-011; 2002-027; 2002-097; 2002-180; 2003-032; 2003-085., ca. 1955-2000 Dolph Briscoe Center for American History
creatorOf Crawford, Joan, 1908-1977. Letters to Joan Crawford, 1972-1976. New York Public Library System, NYPL
referencedIn McNamee, Wally. McNamee, Wally, photographic archive ca. 1955-2000 University of Texas Libraries, University of Texas Libraries
referencedIn Arthur Unger collection of recorded interviews [sound recording] The New York Public Library. Rodgers and Hammerstein Archives of Recorded Sound.
referencedIn Records of the White House Communications Agency (WHCA) (Reagan Administration). 1/20/1981 - 1/20/1989. White House Communications Agency (WHCA) Videorecordings
referencedIn Lillian Gish papers, 1909-1992 The New York Public Library. Billy Rose Theatre Division.
referencedIn American Conservative Union. Photographs, 1966?-1974? Harold B. Lee Library
referencedIn Regan, Donald T. Papers of Donald T. Regan, 1919-1993 (bulk 1981-1987). Library of Congress
referencedIn Andreĭ Sakharov papers, 1852-2002 (inclusive), 1960-1990 (bulk). Houghton Library
referencedIn Richard Scarry Papers, undated, 1946-1997. Archives and Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries
referencedIn Papers, 1961-1985. University of Oklahoma, Bizzell Memorial Library
referencedIn Percy, Walker, 1916-1990. Walker Percy papers, 1910-1992. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
referencedIn Fien (Family : 1923-1988 : N.J.). Fien family collection, 1923-1988. Jewish Historical Society of Metrowest
referencedIn Judge Woodrow Seals Papers MSS 0414., 1941-1990, 1961-1990 Houston Metropolitan Research Center, Houston Public Library,
referencedIn Baker, James Addison, 1930-. James A. Baker III papers, 1957-2002 (bulk 1972-1992). Princeton University Library
referencedIn Adele C. Brockoff Correspondence, 1946-1981. Columbia University. Rare Book and Manuscript Library,
referencedIn Deaver & Hannaford, Inc. Records, 1960-2008 Hoover Institution Archives.
referencedIn Florence Knoll Bassett papers, 1932-2000 Archives of American Art
referencedIn Records of the American Battle Monuments Commission. 1918 - 1995. Moving Images Relating to American War Cemeteries and Memorials. 1937 - 1984. Scenes from an ABC (American Broadcasting Company) News Special Report
creatorOf Ford, Gerald R., 1913-2006. Visiting cards : Presidents, artists, authors, et al. Boston Public Library, Central Library in Copley Square
referencedIn Douglas, Rosslee Tenetha Green, 1928-. Rosslee Tenetha Green Douglas papers, 1938-2001. University of South Carolina, University Libraries
referencedIn Records of the U.S. Customs Service. 1745 - 1997. White House Instructions Primarily on Drug Abuse Prevention
referencedIn Regan, Donald T. Papers, 1919-1993 (bulk 1981-1987). Library of Congress
creatorOf Records of the White House Communications Agency (WHCA) (Reagan Administration). 1/20/1981 - 1/20/1989. First Lady Audio Recordings
referencedIn General Records of the Department of Education. 1967 - 2005. Photographs of Agency Activities
referencedIn Cooper, Lorraine Rowan, 1906-1985. Papers, 1936-1983 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Judge Woodrow Seals Papers MSS 0414., 1941-1990, 1961-1990 Houston Metropolitan Research Center, Houston Public Library,
creatorOf Knoll, Florence, 1917-. Florence Knoll Bassett papers, 1932-2000. Smithsonian Institution. Libraries
referencedIn Jefferson, Edward G. (Edward Graham), 1921-. Papers, 1962-1992, (bulk, 1979-1987). Hagley Museum & Library
referencedIn Papers, 1936-1983 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Gould, Lewis L. Gubernatorial spouses collection, 1908-1971. University of Texas Libraries, University of Texas Libraries
referencedIn Records of the U.S. Customs Service. 1745 - 1997. Slide Presentations of Agency Activities National Archives Library, National Archives Records Administration
referencedIn Letters to Joan Crawford, 1972-1976 The New York Public Library. Billy Rose Theatre Division.
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith American Conservative Union. corporateBody
correspondedWith Anna Chennault person
associatedWith Baker, James Addison, 1930- person
associatedWith Brockhoff, Adele C. person
associatedWith Brockhoff, Adele C. person
associatedWith Cooper, Lorraine Rowan, 1906-1985. person
associatedWith Crawford, Joan, 1908-1977. person
associatedWith Curley, V. Kenneth, Bro., F.S.C. person
childOf Davis, Loyal, 1896-1982 person
parentOf Davis, Patti. person
associatedWith Deaver & Hannaford, Inc. corporateBody
associatedWith Deaver & Hannaford, Inc. corporateBody
associatedWith Douglas, Rosslee Tenetha Green, 1928- person
correspondedWith Fien (Family : 1923-1988 : N.J.) family
associatedWith Gish, Lillian, 1893-1993 person
associatedWith Hannaford, Peter. person
correspondedWith Harvard Law School Forum corporateBody
associatedWith Jefferson, Edward G. (Edward Graham), 1921- person
associatedWith Just Say No International corporateBody
associatedWith Knoll, Florence, 1917- person
associatedWith Knoll, Florence (Florence Knoll Bassett) person
associatedWith Lee, Gary A. (Gary Alcide), b. 1933. person
associatedWith Lorraine (Rowan) Cooper, 1906-1985 person
associatedWith McNamee, Wally person
associatedWith McNamee, Wally. person
associatedWith Michel, Don, 1931- person
associatedWith Milton Caniff person
associatedWith Nazimova, 1879-1945 person
associatedWith Percy, Walker, 1916-1990. person
associatedWith Raymond Mettler person
parentOf Reagan, Maureen, 1941-2001 person
parentOf Reagan, Michael. person
parentOf Reagan, Ron, 1958-.... person
spouseOf Reagan, Ronald, 1911-2004 person
associatedWith Regan, Donald T. person
correspondedWith Sakharov, Andreĭ, 1921-1989 person
correspondedWith Scarry, Richard, Jr. (Huck) person
associatedWith Seals, Woodrow Bradley person
associatedWith Seals, Woodrow Bradley person
alumnusOrAlumnaOf Smith College. corporateBody
associatedWith Swarzwald, Eugene. person
associatedWith Thayer, John Eldon, 1899-1980 person
associatedWith Unger, Arthur person
associatedWith Vidal, Gore, 1925- person
associatedWith Vidal, Gore, 1925- person
associatedWith Wilson, Mary Faith, 1920-1996. person
associatedWith Yourcenar, Marguerite. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Chicago IL US
Santa Barbara County CA US
District of Columbia DC US
Bethesda MD US
New York City NY US
Los Angeles CA US
Sacramento CA US
Subject
First ladies
Actress
Occupation
Actress
Sales personnel
Presidents' spouses--United States
Function

Person

Birth 1923-07-06

Death 2016-03-06

Female

Americans

English

Information

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Ark ID: w6d61b04

SNAC ID: 83542224