Nancy Davis Reagan
Biography: "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, 1923, according to her autobiography Nancy, published in 1980.
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
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
have 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 has 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.
Now living in retirement with her husband in California, she continues to
work on her campaign to teach children to "just say no" to drugs, though
her husband and her home remain her first priority. In her book My
Turn, published in 1989, she gives 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."