"First Daughter" Margaret Truman described Pat Nixon as "one of the most gifted, hardest working First Ladies in the long history of the White House," who struggled to play a role she hated for the sake of the man she loved. Mrs. Nixon's thoughts on her role at the White House? "Being First Lady is the hardest unpaid job in the world."
Thelma Catherine "Pat" Ryan Nixon (1912 -1993) was born on this day in a Nevada miner's shack. Orphaned at 17, the red-headed dynamo worked her way through college and graduated cum laude.
"You can not underestimate the power of fear," she once said.
In 1938, she was a popular typing and shorthand teacher at Whittier High School when she met a young lawyer at an amateur theater group. The gentleman, Richard Nixon, proposed the night he met her. She refused him for two years.
UPI correspondent Helen Thomas has covered the White House since 1943 and has high praise for Mrs. Nixon. "She was the warmest First Lady I covered and the one who loved people the most. I think news people who covered her saw a woman who was sharp, responsive, sensitive, and instinctively protective of her loved ones."
Mrs. Nixon disliked politics, but was a tireless campaigner. Despite being against his second run for President, she stood stoically by her husband through the nightmare of Watergate, urging him to stay and fight rather than resign. "I do or die, but I never cancel out," she explained.
Ronald Reagan called her "a true, unsung hero" who was committed to "people helping people." While at the White House, she added 600 paintings and antiques to the American collection, successfully promoted volunteerism, and traveled to over 80 nations as an emissary of compassion and goodwill.
Helping brings the deepest pleasure in the world.