Her father’s family was formerly wealthy, but they had fallen on hard times by the time she was born. Nancy grew up in a two-story house in New York City for the first two years. Her parents divorced in 1928, just a few years after she was born.
Her parents’ divorce hurt her, and she was reared for six years in Virginia by her aunt. Nancy’s mother traveled all over the United States in quest of acting opportunities due to a lack of funds. In an interview, Nancy revealed that she used to miss her mother when staying with her aunt.
Her mother married Loyal Edward Davis, a neurosurgeon in Chicago. Nancy and her stepfather got along swimmingly. Her stepfather adopted Nancy in 1935. Her name was changed to Nancy Davis at the time of adoption.
She attended Chicago’s Girl’s Latin School and graduated in 1939. Nancy went on to Smith College in Massachusetts, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in English and drama in 1943.
She was interested in acting when she was in college. In 1940, she starred in a short film produced by the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis to raise funds to combat polio.
Nancy worked as a sales clerk and a nurse’s assistant after graduation. With the help of her mother’s theatrical friends, she was cast in some of the most well-known plays of the period, including “Ramshackle Inn” and “Lute Song.”
In 1949, she passed a screen test with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc. and signed a nine-year contract with the studio. She featured in eleven feature films during her MGM contract tenure. She was mainly cast in minor roles as a devoted wife, and she had to compete with other well-known actresses of the period.
Nancy’s career as a leading lady began in 1949 when she was cast in supporting roles in two films, namely “The Doctor and the Girl” and “East Side, West Side.” In 1951, she was cast in another significant movie, “Night into Morning.”
Nancy’s career took a hit in the early 1950s when her name appeared on the Hollywood Blacklist. The Blacklist was designed to alert Hollywood studios about communist supporters and prevent them from being cast in future roles.
She called the President of the Screen Actors Guild, Ronald Reagan, to see if he might assist her in clearing her name from the Blacklist. They were both instantly drawn to one other and began dating.
They dated for a long time but never married because Ronald Reagan was wary of marriage following his traumatic divorce from actress Jane Wyman. In the year 1952, they married after three years of being together.
She continued to perform after her marriage, but she now devotes her time to her family. She finished three films following her marriage and appeared in a few modest TV appearances. Nancy stopped performing and focused on managing the house due to her increasing family, by which time she and her husband had four children.
As Ronald Reagan became the governor of California in 1967, his political prospects started to improve.
Nancy was praised as a model first lady by the Los Angeles Times during Ronald Reagan’s governorship for her flair, glamour, and youthfulness.
Ronald Reagan launched his campaign for President of the United States after spending two terms as governor of California. She assumed the traditional role of a candidate’s wife by hosting luncheons, parties, and town hall meetings.
Shortly after arriving in the White House, she declared that the executive mansion was in poor condition and required renovations. She was chastised for lavishly renovating her home during a period when the country was experiencing a recession.
Nancy responded to the criticism by advocating for drug misuse awareness and education. She traveled throughout the country, stopping at drug treatment clinics and prevention initiatives.
After Reagan’s assassination attempt in 1981, Nancy assumed the position of personal guardian for her husband and oversaw all his schedule. This caused a conflict between her and the White House personnel.
In 1987, Nancy was diagnosed with breast cancer and had to have a mastectomy. She insisted on the United Nations General Assembly in 1988, arguing for the tightening of international drug trafficking legislation.
Nancy established a foundation to assist after-school preventive initiatives when Ronald Reagan’s administration ended. After retiring and relocating to Los Angeles, she and her husband had an active lifestyle.
Nancy became a proponent of stem cell research after Ronald Reagan’s death and a vocal critic of President George W. Bush’s policies.
Nancy was awarded the Polish government’s “Order of the First Eagle” in 2007. It was the highest Polish honor bestowed upon her husband to recognize his contribution to Poland’s growth.
Eureka College, Ronald Reagan’s alma mater, awarded her an honorary degree.
Nancy Reagan was an excellent novelist as well as an actor and first lady. In her lifetime, she released several volumes, including I, Love You Ronnie: Ronald Reagan’s Letters to Nancy Reagan in 2000, My Turn: Nancy Reagan’s Memoirs in 1989, and Entertaining at the White House in 2007.
Nancy Reagan, in 2016, died at the age of 94 from congestive heart failure. She is still recognized as one of the most illustrious first ladies who participated actively in public life.