July 6, 1921, in New York, New York


March 6, 2016 in Bel Air, California


Nancy Reagan served as first lady throughout both terms of her husband Ronald Reagan in the years 1981-1989. Nancy was 59 years old when she became first lady.

Nancy majored in drama at Smith College then went on to perform on Broadway and act in 11 Hollywood films. It was in Hollywood that Nancy met the actor Ronald Reagan, whom she married several years later. At the time, Reagan’s acting career was being replaced with a stronger interest in politics, an interest that eventually led him to seek our nation’s highest office. Nancy also left the silver screen behind following their marriage to raise their two children while Reagan pursued his political career.

Nancy’s tenure as first lady was not without controversy. She was particularly criticized when the public learned that she routinely sought the advice of an astrologer, and many believed Nancy was too influential in matters of policy. However, she worked as a strong advocate against drug abuse, traveling around the country and hosting a First Ladies Conference on Drug Abuse that was attended by the wives of 18 world leaders. Indeed, Nancy’s “Just Say No” campaign was extremely influential in raising awareness about the problem of illegal drug use and her slogan remains memorable even today.


The Reagans’ love for each other is legendary, and Nancy once noted, “My life really began when I married my husband.”

Nancy commented at the Second International Drug Conference held at the United Nations in 1985: “As I’ve said many times, drug abuse knows no boundaries. It crosses all lines––geographical, racial, political, economic. There is no one here today whose country isn’t affected by the inevitable sorrow and tragedy drug abuse causes . . . We must act now, not tomorrow, or the next day.”

[Back to First Lady Fact Files]