Elizabeth Ann Bloomer Warren "Betty" Ford, 1918 - 2011

portrait of Betty Ford
White House portrait (2 October 1974)
Betty Ford signature
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Born: 8 April 1918, Chicago, Illinois
Died: 8 July 2011, Rancho Mirage, California

Two years after her birth the family moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan. After high school she studied dance at Bennington College in Vermont, did some modeling at New York City, and studied and danced under Martha Graham before returning to Grand Rapids. After a short unhappy first marriage she married Gerald R. Ford during his first Congressional campaign, they spent their honeymoon at Republican Party rallies. After four children she was taking pain killers for a pinched nerve in her neck and started quietly drinking, suffering from a loss of self-esteem — feeling less important as Gerry became steadily more important. Two months after Ford became president following Nixon's resignation, Betty Ford had a mastectomy and was willing to talk about it, the outpouring of public support was dramatic. She continued to be outspoken as First Lady, supporting the Equal Rights Amendment and the right of women to seek safe abortions, making her popular with millions but not always with the Republican leadership. When Ford lost to Jimmy Carter in 1976 he completely lost his voice, Betty delivered the concession speech. Soon after that her family challenged her over her drug and alcohol dependencies. She resisted but then conquered the addictions, again willing to talk publicly and model a positive response to a sometimes-buried problem for millions. She went on to found the Betty Ford Center to treat drug addictions on the campus of the Eisenhower Medical Center near Palm Springs. She died yesterday at that hospital. She was 93.

Biography from Wikipedia and The New York Times obituary

Betty Ford quotes:

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