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Nancy Reagan

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“We’ll need everyone’s prayers now.”

Nancy Davis Reagan, born Anne Frances Robbins, 1921–2016.  First Lady of the United States, 1981–1989.  Autograph letter signed, Nancy, two pages (front leaf and back of integral leaf), 4” x 4⅞”, on engraved note stationery of the Executive Mansion, Sacramento, California, no date [circa 1967].

Nancy Reagan, the new First Lady of California, muses about the changes in life since she and her friend had worked on Broadway some 20 years before—and how she and her husband, new Governor Ronald Reagan, would need prayers of support.  Writing to “Dear Adrienne,” she says, in full:  “How nice of you to write after all these years.  It seems a long, long time since ‘Lute Song’ and there certainly have been big changes in both our lives!  None of us would have dreamed then what stood in store–  / Many thanks for your good wishes too – We’ll need everyone’s prayers now.  /  Always . . . .”

Mrs. Reagan became the First Lady of California when Reagan was sworn in as Governor on January 2, 1967.  Her comment in this letter that they would “need everyone’s prayers” was prescient.  In his two terms as Governor, Reagan dealt with a number of very difficult issues, among them the deficit budget, abortion, Vietnam War protests, the death penalty, school finance reform, welfare reform, and tax relief.  

The Reagans lived in the California Governor’s Mansion only four months before Mrs. Reagan moved the family to a wealthy suburb of Sacramento because fire officials had declared the mansion to be a “firetrap.”  Although she argued that the move was for the good of her family, the public generally saw the move as snobbish.  A year later, however, the Los Angeles Times called Mrs. Reagan a model First Lady and named her its Woman of the YearShe worked with charities, visited veterans, the disabled, and the elderly, held dinners for Vietnam War veterans and former prisoners of war, and worked with the Foster Grandparents Program.

She moved into the White House when Reagan became President of the United States on January 20, 1981.  During her eight years as First Lady, she founded the “Just Say No” campaign against recreational drug use.  She had a strong influence on many of Reagan’s policies and personnel appointments.

Lute Song, which Mrs. Reagan mentions in this letter, was a 1946 Broadway musical starring Mary Martin.  It was based on a 14th Century Chinese play, Pi-Pa-Ji, or Tale of the Pipa, by Gao Ming.  The then-young actress Nancy Davis had a small part as a Chinese lady-in-waiting named Si-Tchun.  She landed the part not because of her talent but because Martin insisted that she get it.  Later, during early rehearsals, Martin also kept director John Houseman from firing her:  Martin had a bad back, she told Houseman, and Nancy’s adoptive father, Loyal Davis, was the best neurosurgeon in the country.  Karen Tumulty, The Triumph of Nancy Reagan 64 (2021).  Lute Song ran for 142 performances, from February 6 to June 8, 1946, at the Plymouth Theatre.  It was Mrs. Reagan’s first and last Broadway show.

This is nice letter in Mrs. Reagan’s distinctive hand.  The engraved note stationery is imprinted in gold.  The stationery folds at the top, and Mrs. Reagan has written in red ballpoint pen on the front of the front leaf and the back of the integral leaf.  Toning on the inside, evidently from where the letter was stored flat with the envelope (not present), bleeds through faintly on the first page and darker on the second; it affects the text but does not affect the signature.  Overall the piece is in fine condition. 


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