- 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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Nixon had long had an interesting politics and in 1946 won a seat in the U.S. Congress as a representative for California. Just four years, later he became a U.S. senator, and in 1952 was elected vice president of the United States, serving under Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Pat proved to be a crucial part of her husband's political success. She had an eye for politics and for making people feel welcome. She was also a hard worker. On February 21,
1946 she gave birth to the couple's first child, a daughter, Patricia. Within hours after the birth, she was on the campaign trail, working for her husband.
On July 5, 1948, the Nixons had a second daughter, Julie.
In January 1969 Richard Nixon was inaugurated President of the United States. In many ways, Pat transformed the role of the first lady. She became entrenched in several social issues from education to volunteerism.
She also traveled extensively, covering more than 100,000 miles as first lady. In 1972 she headed a United Nations delegation abroad to see the inauguration of President William R. Tolbert of Liberia. Her travels also took her to Peru, where she visited parts of the country that had been devastated by an earthquake, and she became the first first lady to visit a combat zone when she visited South Vietnam.
Back home, she worked to make the White House more accessible. She opened the property up to evening tours, and garden and grounds tours. Pat also pushed to create brochures about the White House made in languages other than English. Her passion for art led to the purchase of more than 600 paintings and pieces of furniture for the White House, the largest acquisition ever for a presidential administration.
She also served as a member of the President's Committee on Employment of the Handicapped, and took on the role of honorary chair of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare's "Right to Lead" program.
But the Nixon White House was undone by the Watergate scandal. At every moment, Pat, who had not been briefed early on about the details surrounding Watergate showed support of her husband. "I only know what I read in the papers," she'd say to inquiring reporters.
As the scandal closed in around her husband, Pat urged the president to stay on and fight the articles of impeachment. On August 8, 1974, Nixon announced his intention to resign the office of the presidency. Later that night, her last in the White House, a stoic Pat told her husband: "We're all proud of you, Daddy."
Following the president's resignation, the Nixons moved to San Clemente, California. The next few years proved to be difficult for Pat: Her husband wrestled with legal issues related to his resignation as well as poor physical health, including bouts of depression.
Pat, too, suffered from her own physical issues: In 1976, she experienced a stroke that temporarily took away her speech and the use of her left side. A second stroke followed in the early 1980s. As a result of these health issues, and her own reluctance to put herself back in the spotlight, Pat Nixon rarely came out for public appearances over the last two decades of her life.
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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.
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