Anne Frances “Nancy” Robbins was born in Flushing, Queens, New York on July 6, 1921. Her father, Kenneth Robbins, was a used car salesman and her mother, Edith P. Luckett was a Broadway actress. Her parents divorced shortly after her birth. According the a PBS biographical piece on Nancy , in 1931 her new stepfather, Loyal Davis, a prominent Chicago neurosurgeon, adopted her.Nancy was raised in Chicago, where she graduated from Girls’ Latin School and went on to Smith College, Northampton, Massachusetts and majored in drama.
In her early career, Nancy Davis worked as an actress in stage, film and television productions. She enjoyed moderate success as an actress before meeting her would be husband, actor Ronald Reagan, in 1949. The couple was married on March 6, 1952.Nancy made eleven films in all, including three after her marriage.
On January 3, 1967 Nancy Regan became the First Lady of California after her husband clinched the top office in the state, Governor. According to her PBS bio, Nancy raised eyebrows as soon as she moved into — and quickly out of — the Governor’s Mansion in Sacramento. The mansion, she said was a “firetrap” — it had been so described by the fire department — and she moved her family to an exclusive suburb. What Nancy claimed was concern for Ron’s safety, many Californians perceived as snobbery.
On January 20, 1981 Nancy and Ronald Reagan became the First Lady and President of the United States. As the new First Lady, Nancy followed in the foot steps of Jacqueline Kennedy, and proceeded with renovations to the White House. The PBS bio states, although the White House, after years of neglect, needed the lift, Nancy was criticized for spending frivolously in the middle of a recession. Criticism of Nancy’s close relationship with high-end fashion designers and expensive in fashion soon followed.
“Designers donated their fashions to Nancy in exchange for the exposure she afforded them, but the public balked. The Reagans were accused of not caring that America was having trouble making ends meet, while they lived and entertained lavishly, surrounded by well-heeled friends.”-PBS
Despite her critics Nancy improved her image by becoming one of the most politically involved first ladies to date. According to her PBS bio,though she left policy to the Reagan men, Nancy was deeply involved in selecting who those men were. Discreet as it may have been, her influence was undeniable.
After her husband’s presidency Nancy published her memoirs entitled My Turn, in 1989, she established the Nancy Reagan Foundation, to support educational drug prevention after-school programs; it merged with the Best Foundation for a Drug-Free Tomorrow, out of which emerged the Nancy Reagan Afterschool Program, a drug prevention and life-skills program for youth.