— Nancy Reagan, book My Turn
My Turn (1989)
Context: In 1981, when Ronnie and I moved to Washington, I never dreamed that our eight years there would be a time of so much emotion. But life in the White House is magnified: The highs were higher than I expected, and the lows were much lower.
While I loved being first lady, my eight years with that title were the most difficult years of my life. Both of my parents died while Ronnie was president, and my husband and I were both operated on for cancer. Before we had even settled in, Ronnie was shot and almost killed. Then there was the pressure of living under the intense scrutiny of the media, and the frustration of frequently being misunderstood. Everything I did or said seemed to generate controversy, and it often seemed that you couldn’t open a newspaper without seeing a story about me — my husband and me, my children and me, Donald Regan and me, and so on.
I don’t think I was as bad, or as extreme in my power or my weakness, as I was depicted — especially during the first year, when people thought I was overly concerned with trivialities, and the final year, when some of the same people were convinced I was running the show.
In many ways, I think I served as a lightning rod; and in any case, I came to realize that while Ronald Reagan was an extremely popular president, some people didn’t like his wife very much. Something about me, or the image people had of me, just seemed to rub them the wrong way.