- NAME: Pat Nixon
- OCCUPATION: Children's Activist, Political Leader, U.S. First Lady
- BIRTH DATE: March 16, 1912
- DEATH DATE: June 22, 1993
- EDUCATION: University of Southern California
- PLACE OF BIRTH: Ely, Nevada
- PLACE OF DEATH: Park Ridge, New Jersey
- Full Name: Thelma Catherine Ryan Nixon
- AKA: Thelma Ryan
- Originally: Thelma Catherine Ryan
- AKA: Pat Ryan
- AKA: Pat Nixon
- AKA: Thelma Catherine Nixon
- AKA: Thelma Nixon
Best Known For
Pat Nixon was the wife of Richard Nixon, the 37th president of the United States. As first lady, she traveled extensively and championed volunteerism.
Pat Nixon - Poor Farm Girl (3:45)
Pat Nixon - Falling in Love (2:01)
Longing for a life of privacy, Pat Nixon had to yet again live in the public spotlight when her husband decided to run for president in the 1960s.
Pat Nixon grew up in poverty on the farmlands of southern California. Her childhood came to an abrupt end at the age of 13 when her mother died of cancer.
After meeting as young actors in a theatrical production, Pat Ryan would soon wed Richard Nixon after a romantic courtship.
When Richard Nixon resigned his presidency in 1974, Pat Nixon was filled with grief but remained gracious to the end.
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Pat Nixon, the wife of Richard Nixon, the 37th president of the United States, was extremely active in her husband's political life, both as vice president and as president, traveling with him and taking up the cause of volunteerism. Although she received far less publicity for her efforts,
"Being first lady is the hardest unpaid job in the world."
"I have sacrificed everything in my life that I consider precious to advance the political career of my husband."
"I'll have to have a room of my own. Nobody could sleep with Dick. He wakes up during the night, switches on the lights, speaks into his tape recorder."
Pat received many donations of valuable furniture and artwork for the White House—more than Jacqueline Kennedy would receive several years later.
United States first lady and wife of (the 37th U.S.) President Richard Nixon, Pat Nixon was born Thelma Catherine Ryan on March 16, 1912, in the small mining town of Ely, Nevada. Her nickname, Pat, was given to her by her father, William, who claimed Irish roots and wanted to celebrate his daughter's birth on the eve of St. Patrick's Day.
Her origins were humble. After her mother, Kate, convinced William to leave his life as a miner, the family settled in Artesia, California, where the Ryans started a truck farm.
When Pat was 12, her mother died of cancer. As her mother neared the end, it was Pat who not managed the house, but served as her mom's caregiver. "For the last two or three months I used to sit with her through the night," she later recalled. "We couldn't afford a night nurse and she needed attention."
Five years later, her father, whom she was extremely close to, died of the miner's condition, silicosis. As his illness worsened, Pat had taken on the household and farm chores. She also worked as a morning janitor at a local bank to help the family pay its bills for her and four siblings.
In 1932, an 18-year-old Pat Nixon received an opportunity to drive an elderly couple across country in their Packard. In the east, Pat found work at Seton Hospital for the Tubercular, which was run by the Catholic Sisters of Charity. Pat lived with the sisters and saved money for college.
Pat returned to California in 1934 and enrolled at the University of Southern California, where she majored in merchandising. She graduated, cum laude, in 1937.
After failing to find work with a department store, Pat took a job teaching shorthand and typing at a secondary school in Whittier, California. In her off-time Pat showed an interest in acting and during an audition for a play in 1937 she met Richard Nixon, a recent Duke Law School graduate who had his own practice in Whittier.
The young lawyer was immediately smitten with Pat, even going so far as to drive her to dates with other men. For two years he dated her before she finally agreed to marry him.
The Nixons married on June 21, 1940 in Riverside, California. With the onset of World War II, the young couple moved to Washington D.C., where Richard Nixon worked as an attorney in the Office of Emergency Management, and Pat took a job at the Red Cross. After her husband volunteered for the U.S. Navy and was stationed in the South Pacific, Pat moved to San Francisco, where she worked as an economist for the Office of Price Administration.
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When the 19th Amendment was ratified, women were finally given the right to vote, and over the years many courageous women have stepped onto the national political stage as well. In 1916, Jeannette Rankin became the first woman elected to Congress and almost a century later Sonia Sotomayor became the first Latina woman to serve on the Supreme Court. And within the last two decades, the esteemable Hillary Clinton has served as First Lady, a New York senator and Secretary of State. These women, and many more, are setting the stage for the future of female leaders in Washington.
Visit Biography.com's Women's History group to explore more biographies, photos and videos of some the world's most fascinating women."
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The wives of U.S. presidents are often important American figures in their own right. Although they have no official responsibilities, first ladies are a highly visible part of U.S. government. The role of the first lady has evolved over the centuries, from hostess of the White House to advocates for public policy. Learn about the different causes first ladies like Eleanor Roosevelt, Betty Ford, Nancy Reagan, Hillary Clinton, and Michelle Obama have championed over the years, from literacy to addiction to health care reform.
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