As one of the most influential first ladies of the 20th century, and the widow of the 40th United States President Ronald Reagan, Nancy Reagan became the most prolific woman ever known by her political career during the past three decades.
However on March 6, 2015, Nancy died at her home in Los Angeles of a congestive heart failure at the age of 94.
Nancy known for more than her role as the wife of Ronald Reagan and the first lady of the United States. She was also known for creating her advertisement awareness campaign “Just Say No,” which was an effective slogan to persuade children and young teens to remain abstinent from illegal drug use. The campaign expanded its scope to refrain from violence and premarital sex, giving ways for children to simply say “no” in various activities that may be harmful.
Nancy is also best remembered as the woman who remained complete loyal to her husband, standing at his side during the 1981 assassination attempt and aiding his 10-year turmoil of Alzheimer’s Disease.
After her husband’s death, Nancy devoted her life to stem cell research in hope to finding a way to cure Alzheimer’s.
Born in Queens, New York and raised in Bethesda, Maryland, Nancy began her career in acting, as did her husband. Earning her seven-year contract with Metro Goldwyn Mayer Studios (MGM) in 1949, Nancy appeared in eleven feature films including The Doctor and the Girl, Shadow on the Wall, and Hellcats of the Navy.
Before meeting Ronald Reagan during her Hollywood career, Nancy dated many actors including Clark Gable and Robert Stack. After a devastating divorce from his first wife Jane Wyman in 1948, Ronald Reagan met Nancy the following year. They married on March 2, 1952, giving birth to two children: Patrica Ann Reagan (Patti Davis) and Ronald Prescott Reagan. Nancy also served as the stepmother of Ronald’s previous children: Maureen Reagan and Michael Reagan.
In 1967, Nancy was the First Lady of California during her husband’s two-term as a governor.
That same year she was appointed, by her husband, to the California Arts Commission.
Later in 1967, Times Magazine coined her as “A Model First Lady” and was named “Woman of the Year” in Los Angeles Times. As first lady, Nancy became known for her vast charity work for the veterans, handicapped, and elderly. She became involved with the Foster Grandparents Program and helped to make the program well known in the United States and Austrailia. She expanded her work for the charity after arriving in Washington D.C. and soon published her experiences in her 1982 book entitled To Love a Child.
The Reagans first ran for presidency in 1976 against the former 38th president Gerald Ford.
Nancy worked alongside her husband in their hopes of winning the presidency. She focuses her campaign by challenging against former first lady Betty Ford, discussing similar issues through different approaches; it would come to be known as the “battle of the queens”.
After losing to former 39th president Jimmy Carter in 1976, the Reagans ran for presidency in 1980 and finally won the election. Nancy became First lady of the United States when Ronald Reagan was inaugurated in 1981. During the early time of her husband’s presidency, Nancy spent time renovating the shabby White House, making it a suitable home to live in through the use of private donations rather than using government funds.
After the daunting assassination attempt of her husband, Nancy became an even stronger first lady. It resulted in a powerful influence over Ronald Reagan, a notion that first started the belief that powerful women could possibly run as president some day. Nancy initially controlled her husband’s decision making and political changes, highlighting her pivotal role as an attempt to become the power behind the throne.
In 1987, Nancy was diagnosed with Breast Cancer and undergone mastectomy which was then removed the same month she discovered it.
Nancy performed many duties during her post-White House activities. One example is Nancy’s establishment of the Nancy Reagan Foundation which aimed to educate the potential danger of substance abuse. After revealing Ronald Reagan’s diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease in 1994, Nancy once again proved her supportive role of helping her husband’s illness with the National Alzheimer’s Association, prompting the foundation of the Ronald and Nancy Reagan Research Institute in Chicago, Illinois.
In 2002, former 43th president George W. Bush awarded Nancy the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor. A the same year, both Nancy and her husband were jointly awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, making them the third president and the first lady to obtain it.
“A woman is like a tea bag, you can not tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water.” -Nancy Reagan
Ronald Reagan died in 2004. During the seventh day state funeral, Nancy led the nation in mourning of her husband’s death by traveling from her home to the Reagan Library to Washington D.C.
After her husband’s death, Nancy remained strong as an elderly woman by focusing her work into stem cell research aimed toward curing Alzheimer’s. She also worked for the Democratic Party’s position, and urged President George W. Bush to support federally funded embryonic stem cell research. Nancy attended the gala dinner at the Ronald Reagan Building in D.C. in 2005, the national funeral service of Gerald Ford in 2007, and also hosted two 2008 Republican Presidential Candidates Debates.
Nancy first gained health concern in 2008 where she suffered a fall in her home that fractured her pelvis and sacrum, and again in 2012 where she fell with a broken rib.
Nancy died in 2016 not from the events of her fall but of poor health issues that resulted her heart failure.
According the her representative Joanne Drake, Nancy is set to be buried next to her husband at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California.
Members of the public can pay their respect at the library as the details were announced Sunday afternoon, as well as the White House and Congress honoring her by flying the flags at half staff.