Former first lady Nancy Reagan died Sunday of congestive heart failure at the age of 94.
She was known for many things: her style and grace, her "Just Say No" anti-drug campaign, her bizarre obsession with astrology following an assassination attempt on her husband Ronald Reagan, and her advocacy for stem cell research as the "long goodbye" of Alzheimer's slowly took her husband away from her.
But there's a lot more to Nancy Reagan than that. Here are some things you may not know about this remarkable woman:
She was a film actress who was more interested in being a wife and mother than having a career
Born Anne Frances Robbins on July 6, 1921, Nancy Davis was the daughter of actress Edith Luckett and the adopted stepdaughter of Luckett's second husband Loyal Davis.
Nancy Davis followed in her mother's footsteps and worked as a film actress for a while, but gave that up soon after getting married and having children. Her biographical information submitted to MGM in 1949 said her "greatest ambition" was to have a "happy, successful marriage." She said in later interviews that she thought she was "born to be married."
She met Ronald Reagan that same year and married him in 1952. She had vowed not to be a working wife, and only reluctantly took a low-budget sci-fi film role in 1953 because they needed the money. They had two children, Patti Davis and Ronald Reagan Jr.
But she still had major influence over her husband's career
Lou Cannon's obituary in the New York Times paints a fascinating portrait of Nancy Reagan as a woman whose biggest goal in life really did seem to be being a good wife and supporting her husband.
But in Mrs. Reagan's case, "supporting her husband" also meant providing key advice on staffing and strategy. Without her, said longtime aide and close friend of the Reagans Michael K. Deaver, "there would have been no Governor Reagan, no President Reagan."
She was part of the planning for Mr. Reagan's successful campaign for California governor from the start.
She had key influence over the staff for her husband's presidential campaigns, first his unsuccessful run for the Republican nomination in 1976 and then his successful bid for president in 1980. She recommended first hiring, then firing, John P. Sears as Reagan's presidential campaign manager, and had a hand in hiring Sears's replacements — first William J. Casey, then finally Stuart Spencer, who shepherded the campaign to victory.
Her most critical role probably came in the wake of the Iran-Contra scandal. She helped oust the White House chief of staff whom she blamed for ineptness during the scandal, and convinced her husband to apologize to the nation. That March 1987 speech was credited for turning around Mr. Reagan's poor approval ratings.
If it wasn't for the "Red Scare" in Hollywood, Nancy and Ronald Reagan may never have met
As Cannon recounts, Nancy Davis took the initiative in meeting her future husband while she was trying to clear her name of communist sympathies. (Which is possibly the best-ever meet-cute for a couple who would later become such idols of American conservatism.)
In an apparent case of mistaken identity, another "Nancy Davis" who worked in "leftist theater" signed a 1949 brief urging the Supreme Court to overturn the contempt convictions of two blacklisted screenwriters who had refused to cooperate with the House Un-American Activities Committee.
This was potentially career-ending publicity. So Nancy insisted on setting up a meeting with Reagan, who was then president of the Screen Actors Guild, in order to clear her name. She ended up becoming smitten with Reagan, who was still getting over his ex-wife. After some on-and-off dating, the couple married in March of 1952.
She had a complicated role in the AIDS crisis
As BuzzFeed News's Chris Geidner reported last year, the 1985 death of Hollywood legend Rock Hudson from AIDS complications fundamentally changed the national conversations on the disease.
What's less known is that Nancy Reagan refused to help Hudson after his publicist begged her to intervene and convince a French military hospital to treat him. The hospital was believed to have special treatment that could help, but Hudson, who was in Paris when he collapsed, was refused because he didn't live in France.
Mrs. Reagan declined the request, apparently because she didn't want it to seem like the administration was playing favorites with friends or celebrities. She agreed with White House staffer Mark Weinberg's advice that, "This is probably not the [last] time we’re going to get a request like this and we want to be fair and not do anything that would appear to favor personal friends."
But Hudson's death nine weeks later seemed to shake Mrs. Reagan. She apparently did a lot behind the scenes to convince her husband that he needed to fund AIDS research and do more about the crisis. Mr. Reagan was infamously slow to do anything about AIDS; he cut funding for it initially, and only spoke officially about the crisis in 1987 after thousands had died.