The Story Behind the Photo: Nancy Reagan's Sit-Down with Five Other First Ladies
Nancy Reagan, who died on Sunday at 94, attended an event at the U.S. Botanic Garden with five other first ladies in May 1994
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A meeting of the minds in pretty pastels.
Among the tales and photographs is one remarkable moment forever documented on film.
On May 11, 1994, Reagan joined five other First Ladies – including then-current FLOTUS Hillary Clinton – at the U.S. Botanic Garden in Washington, D.C.
Gathered for the opening of the First Ladies’ garden, Lady Bird Johnson (wife of 36th president Lyndon B. Johnson), Betty Ford (wife of 38th president Gerald Ford), Rosalynn Carter (wife of 39th president Jimmy Carter), Reagan (wife of 40th president Ronald Reagan), Barbara Bush (wife of 41st president George H.W. Bush) and Clinton (wife of 42nd president Bill Clinton) were photographed sitting together by Barbara Kinney.
“They were all dressed in pastel colored ball gowns and dresses – very spring-like,” Kinney tells PEOPLE of the image. “I thought it was an interesting moment as the Republicans were chatting (Bush and Ford), two Democrats were in conversation (Clinton and Lady Bird) while Carter was quietly sitting by herself and Reagan was completely detached from the conversation.”
Kinney explains, “In reality, she was watching the video monitor in the corner which was televising the program happening out on stage.”
The photographer says she felt the “photo depicted how each first lady was viewed by the public.”
She adds, “Personally, I feel Nancy was distracted and aloof because President Reagan’s battle with Alzheimer’s had not yet been announced, and I sort of think she had other things on her mind.”
Nancy Reagan, Former First Lady, Dies at 94
Most of the still-living women pictured fondly remember Reagan, and took time to honor her in the wake of her death.
“Hillary and I were deeply saddened to learn of Nancy Reagan’s passing,” the Clintons said in a statement amid the former Secretary of State’s presidential campaign. “Nancy was an extraordinary woman: a gracious first lady, proud mother, and devoted wife to President Reagan – her Ronnie. Her strength of character was legendary, particularly when tested by the attempted assassination of the president, and throughout his battle with Alzheimer’s.”
Said Bush, 90, “Nancy Reagan was totally devoted to President Reagan, and we take comfort that they will be reunited once more. George and I send our prayers and condolences to her family.”
Finally, former president Carter issued a message on both he and his wife’s behalf, writing that Reagan “will always be admired for her strength of conviction and her lifelong devotion to her husband.”
Reagan died of congestive heart failure in her sleep, and will be buried at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, next to her late husband.