President Nixon’s love letters to his wife Patricia Ryan, whom he nicknamed his ‘Irish gypsy,’ will be put on display later this week in honor of what would have been his wife’s 100th birthday. The notes, poetically penned, show a much more tender side of the President than what the general public had ever known.
The New York Post reports that the love letters from the courtship period between Nixon and his wife will be unveiled Friday at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum. The letters will be displayed as part of an exhibit celebrating the 100th birthday of Nixon’s “Irish gypsy.”
"Every day and every night I want to see you and be with you. Yet I have no feeling of selfish ownership or jealousy," wrote Nixon in one undated letter to Patricia Ryan. "Let's go for a long ride Sunday; let's go to the mountains weekends; let's read books in front of fires; most of all, let's really grow together and find the happiness we know is ours."
Nixon first met Ryan while the two both auditioned for a production of "The Dark Tower" in the Southern California town of Whittier. They dated for two years before Nixon proposed to Ryan while on cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean. They were wed in an intimate ceremony in June 1940.
Olivia Anastasiadis, supervisory museum curator said, "These letters are fabulous. It's a totally different person from the Watergate tapes that people know. President Nixon started out as an idealistic young man ready to conquer the world and with Pat Ryan he knew he could do it. There's a lot of hope, there's a lot of tenderness and it's very poetic.”
Nixon’s Quaker upbringing shines through in the beautifully crafted love letters. Referring to Patricia as “thee” is a Quaker tradition that signifies a special closeness between two people. Similarly, Nixon refers to himself in the third person throughout the letters.
Indeed, the letters show a side of Nixon that the public hardly ever got a glimpse of. Forced to resign in 1974 after the Watergate scandal, Nixon is often remembered as stern and “grim-faced.”
Patricia Nixon stood by her husband’s side until her death in 1993, the day after the couple’s 53rd wedding anniversary.
Though Nixon was evidently immediately smitten by Patricia Ryan, it took her a little bit longer to come around and warm up to the idea of Nixon.
"She was quite an independent young lady and she was very cautious about anyone she met and if they couldn't smile, she wouldn't want to do too much unless she could make them smile. That captured Dick's imagination," said Ed Nixon, the President’s youngest brother in a phone interview. "She was challenging. She challenged me and I think she challenged Dick."
Robert Bostock, a consultant to the Richard Nixon Foundation, which is co-sponsoring the exhibit, and a former aide to Nixon after he left the White House, said of Pat Nixon that, "She was with him the whole way; she never lost faith in him. Her feeling was that it was the country's loss when he had to resign, that he had accomplished so much good and had so much more good to accomplish. Her favorite saying was, 'Onward and upward.' She spent no time looking back. She was always looking forward."
No Irish Need Apply? Not anymore