Nancy Davis Reagan, American actress and First Lady from 1981 to 1989, was found dead at her home in Bel-Air this morning.
Nancy Reagan (who was born Anne Frances Robbins) was born to car salesman Kenneth Robbins (who died in 1972) and his actress wife Edith Luckett (who died in 1987) in New York City on July 6th, 1921. After her parents separated around the same time she turned two, Nancy Reagan’s mother decided to send her only child to Bethesda, Maryland, for six full years to live with her aunt and uncle while she traveled the country to pursue acting jobs.
In 1929, her mother would remarry to a man known as Loyal Davis, a prominent neurosurgeon who identified himself as politically conservative. The family moved to Chicago, where Nancy found herself formally adopted to her stepfather in 1935. She would later attend the Girls’ Latin School of Chicago, where she graduated in 1939 as an “average student”, and attended Smith College in Massachusetts. She decided to follow her mother’s footsteps and majored in both English and drama. In 1940, the young Nancy Davis appeared as a volunteer for the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis committee, finding herself in movie theaters to raise donations that would go to finding the cure for polio. She graduated from college in 1943.
She eventually passed a screen test and made her way to Hollywood, where she dated many actors — Clark Gable, Robert Stack, and Peter Lawford just to name a few. On November 15th, 1949, she met Ronald Reagan, the president of the Screen Actors Guild, and brought up the fact that her name had appeared on the Hollywood blacklist. Ronald Reagan helped maintain her employment by informing the guild that she had been confused with an actress of the same name. The dating began, and eventually (despite Reagan’s skepticism and 1948 divorce with Jane Wyman) the two married after three years. To avoid the press, the two Hollywood stars married on March 4th, 1952, in a simple ceremony at the Little Brown Church in Los Angeles.
As First Lady of California and the First Lady of the United States, Nancy Reagan left a considerable impact on society. Although it would take a full day to list the Reagan Administration’s war crimes (that list containing scandals such as the Iran Contra), it would be impossible to claim that her years in the political limelight alongside her husband meant nothing.
It’s sad that her name goes alongside the terrible “prayer” tweets with absolutely no meaning that the GOP candidates send out every time anything happens, but the Reagan name will always live on throughout history. Through her Just Say No campaign and all the other influential roles she played in the 40th President’s administration, Nancy Reagan will go down in history as one of the most effective First Ladies in American History.