If you’ve explored our Hall of Presidents and First Ladies on your trip through Gettysburg, you’ve seen the area’s only complete wax collection of American Presidents and First Ladies. While you’re more likely to be familiar with the Presidents in these halls, the great women in the Hall of First Ladies were just as vital to the heritage and prosperity of this nation. In this profile series we pay tribute to the amazing women here at Gettysburg Tour Center.
Born on July 6, 1921 in Manhattan, New York City, Anne Frances Robbins was the daughter of actress Edith Luckett and car salesman Kenneth Robbins. More commonly referred to as Nancy, she took her stepfather’s last name, Davis, following a formal adoption when she was a teen.
Following in her mother’s footsteps, Nancy studied drama and English at Smith College before launching into an acting career. Nancy worked with MGM Studios for several years and appeared in a variety of feature films including Night Into Morning, Hellcats of the Navy, The Long Shadow, and more. Eventually finding herself on the “Hollywood blacklist,” a list of people suspected of being communist sympathizers, Nancy sought out Ronald Reagan for help. He was the president of the Screen Actors Guild and the name on the list was of another actress by the same name. An immediate attraction was felt by both, and soon they began dating. The couple married in March of 1952.
Ronald Reagan was very active beyond his acting career, and Nancy matched his energy and commitment to others. She played a significant role in his life, and helped shape the path our country took under the Reagan administration. Some of the items Nancy accomplished while serving as First Lady of California, the First Lady of the United States, and before her death include:
- – Leading the fight against drugs with the “Just Say No” campaign, a major initiative of hers where she toured the country giving speeches and visiting drug abuse prevention programs and rehabilitation centers
- – She was involved with the Foster Grandparents Program, which paired senior citizens with special-needs children
- – Nancy was named the Los Angeles Times Woman of the Year in 1968
- – The Reagans were also very supportive of our war vets, hosting dinners for former POWs and Vietnam veterans
- – She launched renovation efforts for the White House after years of neglect, to make it a more suitable home for our nations Presidents, their families, and their staff
- – The Nancy Reagan Foundation was established in 1989, which continued her fight against substance abuse through speeches, afterschool programs, and more
- – In 2002, President George W. Bush awarded Nancy the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which recognizes distinguished civilian service in peacetime
As you can see, Nancy left her mark on the nation in a variety of ways just as her husband Ronald did. Following their time spent in the White House, the Reagan’s became staunch supporters of embryonic stem cell research following her husband’s fight with Alzheimer’s disease.
Nancy passed in March of this year at the age of 94 from congestive heart failure, and was buried next to her husband at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California.
Be sure to check out the Hall of Presidents and First Ladies on your next visit to Gettysburg to learn more about these fascinating First Ladies, as well as their presidential counterparts.