- Betty Ford
Infobox First Lady
name = Elizabeth "Betty" Ford
image_size = 170px
birth_date = birth date and age|mf=yes|1918|4|8
birth_place = Chicago,
First Lady of the United States
First Lady of the United States
term_start2=August 9, 1974
term_end2=January 20, 1977
Second Lady of the United States
term_start3=December 6, 1973
term_end3=August 9, 1974
office1=Chairman of the Board, Betty Ford Center
religion = Episcopalian
William G. Warren(1942-1947) Gerald R. Ford(1948-2006)
children = Michael, Jack, Steven, Susan
parents = William Stephenson Bloomer and Hortense Neahr
Elizabeth Anne Bloomer Warren Ford (born April 8, 1918) is the widow of former
United States President Gerald R. Fordand was the First Lady of the United Statesfrom 1974 to 1977. She is the founder and former chairwoman of the board of directors of the Betty Ford Centerfor substance abuse and addiction and a recipient of the Congressional Gold Medal.
Born in Chicago as Elizabeth Anne Bloomer, she was the third child and only daughter of William Stephenson Bloomer, Sr., a travelling salesman for Royal Rubber Co., and his wife, the former Hortense Neahr. She had two older brothers, Robert and William, Jr., and after living briefly in
Denver, she grew up in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where she graduated from Central High School.
After the 1929 stock market crash, when Betty Bloomer was eleven, she began modeling clothes and teaching other children dances such as the foxtrot,
waltz, and big apple. She studied danceat the Calla Travis Dance Studio, graduating in 1935.
When Bloomer was sixteen her father died by
carbon monoxide poisoning, reportedly while working on the family car in the Bloomers' garage; whether it was an accident or suicide remains unknown. [Tucker, Neely, "Betty For, Again Putting On a Brave Face", The Washington Post, December 29, 2006] In 1933, after she graduated from high school, she proposed continuing her study of dance in New York, but her mother refused. Instead, Bloomer attended the Bennington School of Dance in Bennington, Vermont, for two summers, where she studied under Martha Grahamand Hanya Holm.
After being accepted by Graham as a student, Betty Bloomer moved to
Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood and worked as a fashion model for the John Robert Powersfirm in order to finance her dance studies. She joined Graham’s auxiliary troupe and eventually performed with the company at Carnegie Hall.
Her mother, now remarried to Arthur Meigs Godwin, opposed her daughter’s choice of a career and insisted that she move home, but Bloomer resisted. They finally came to a compromise: she would return home for six months, and if nothing worked out for her in New York, she would return to Michigan, which she did in 1941. She became the
fashioncoordinator for a local department store. She also organized her own dance group and taught dance at various sites in Grand Rapids, including to children with disabilities.
Marriages and family
, where she was employed as a demonstrator at Lasalle & Koch, a department store, a job that entailed being a model and saleswoman. They had no children and divorced on September 22, 1947, on the grounds of incompatibility.
On October 15, 1948, Elizabeth Bloomer Warren married Gerald R. Ford Jr., a lawyer and World War II veteran, at Grace Episcopal Church, in
Grand Rapids, Michigan. Ford was then campaigning for what would be his first of thirteen terms as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, and the wedding was delayed until shortly before the elections, because, as " The New York Times" reported, "Jerry was running for Congress and wasn't sure how voters might feel about his marrying a divorced ex-dancer." [Jane Howard, "The 38th First Lady: Not a Robot At All", " The New York Times", December 8, 1974]
The Fords moved to the
Virginia suburbs of the Washington, D.C., area and lived there for twenty-five years. Ford rose to become the highest-ranking Republican in the House, then was appointed Vice President when Spiro Agnewresigned from that position in 1973. He became president in 1974, upon Richard M. Nixon's resignation in the wake of the Watergate scandal.
First Lady of the United States
National power, influence, and candor
In the opinion of "
The New York Times", "Mrs. Ford's impact on American culture may be far wider and more lasting than that of her husband, who served a mere 896 days, much of it spent trying to restore the dignity of the office of the president." The paper went on to describe her as "a product and symbol of the cultural and political times—doing the Bump along the corridors of the White House, donning a mood ring, chatting on her CB radiowith the handle First Mama—a housewife who argued passionately for equal rights for women, a mother of four who mused about drugs, abortion and premarital sex aloud and without regret." [Steinhauer, Jennifer, "A First Lady Whose Legacy Rivals Husband's", "The New York Times", December 30, 2006] In 1975, in an interview with McCall'smagazine, Ford said that she was asked just about everything, except for how often she and the president had sex. "And if they'd asked me that I would have told them," she said, adding that her response would be, "As often as possible." [Tucker, Neely, "Betty For, Again Putting On a Brave Face", The Washington Post, December 29, 2006] She was open about the benefits of psychiatric treatment, she spoke understandingly about marijuana use and premarital sex, and the new First Lady pointedly stated that she and the President shared the same bed during a televised White House tour. After Betty Ford appeared on " 60 Minutes" in a characteristically candid interview in which she discussed how she would counsel her daughter if she was having an affair and the possibility that her children may have experimented with marijuana, some conservatives called her "No Lady" and even demanded her "resignation", but her overall approval rating was at 75%. As she later said, during her husband's failed 1976 presidential campaign, "I would give my life to have Jerry have my poll numbers". [Steinhauer, Jennifer, "A First Lady Whose Legacy Rivals Husband's", "The New York Times", December 30, 2006]
ocial policy and political activism
During her time as First Lady, Ford was also an outspoken advocate of
women's rights. She supported the proposed Equal Rights Amendmentand lobbied state legislatures to ratify the amendment, and took on opponents of the amendment. She was also an activist for the legalization of abortionand her active political role prompted TIME magazineto call her the country's "Fighting First Lady" and name her a Woman of the Year, representing American women along with other feminist icons. For a time, it was unclear whether Gerald Ford shared his wife's pro-choiceviewpoint. However, he told interviewer Larry Kingthat he, too, was pro-choice and had been criticized for that stance by conservative forces within the Republican Party.
Health and breast cancer awareness
Weeks after Betty Ford became First Lady, she underwent a
mastectomyfor breast canceron September 28, 1974. Her openness about her illness raised the visibility of a disease that Americans had previously been reluctant to talk about. "When other women have this same operation, it doesn't make any headlines," she told Time magazine. "But the fact that I was the wife of the President put it in headlines and brought before the public this particular experience I was going through. It made a lot of women realize that it could happen to them. I'm sure I've saved at least one person—maybe more." Further amplifying the public awareness of breast cancer were reports that several weeks after Betty Ford's cancer surgery, Happy Rockefeller, the wife of vice president Nelson Rockefeller, also underwent a mastectomy. ["Breast Cancer: Fears and Facts", "Time", November 4, 1974]
Betty Ford was an advocate of the arts while First Lady and was instrumental in
Martha Grahamreceiving the Presidential Medal of Freedomin 1976.
Betty Ford also received an award from
Parsons The New School for Designin recognition of her style.
Conceding the 1976 election
After her husband's defeat in the 1976 Presidential election she delivered his historic concession speech. Betty spoke for the president and conceded the election to Jimmy Carter after President Ford lost his voice campaigning.
The Betty Ford Center
In 1978, the Ford family staged an intervention and forced her to confront her
alcoholismand an addictionto opioid analgesics that had been prescribed in the early 1960s for a pinched nerve. "I liked alcohol," she wrote in her 1987 memoir. "It made me feel warm. And I loved pills. They took away my tension and my pain". In 1982, after her recovery, she established the Betty Ford Centerin Rancho Mirage, California, for the treatment of chemical dependency. She wrote about her treatment in a 1987 book, "Betty: A Glad Awakening". In 2003, Ford produced another book, "Healing and Hope: Six Women from the Betty Ford Center Share Their Powerful Journeys of Addiction and Recovery".
In 2005, Betty Ford relinquished her chairmanship of the center's board of directors to her daughter, Susan.
In the years after leaving the
White Housein 1977, Mrs. Ford continued to lead an active public life. In addition to her work with the Betty Ford Center, she remained active in women's issues taking on numerous speaking engagements and lending her name to charities for fundraising. In 1987, the former first lady underwent corrective open heart surgery, but soon recovered without complications. In 1991, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George H.W. Bush and a Congressional Gold Medal in 1999. On May 8, 2003, Mrs. Ford received the prestigious Woodrow Wilson Award in Los Angeles for her public service from the Woodrow Wilson Centerof the Smithsonian Institution. She resided in Rancho Mirage, California and in Beaver Creek, Colorado with her husband during these years. Gerald Ford died at their Rancho Mirage home of heart failure on December 26, 2006 at the age of 93. Despite her advanced age and frail physical condition, Mrs. Ford traveled across the country and took part in the funeral events in California, Washington D.C., and Michigan. She was greatly admired for the dignity she showed the nation during this period.
Betty Ford continues to live in
Rancho Mirage, California. At the age of 90, she is the oldest surviving former occupant of the White House. She is also the third longest-lived first lady behind Bess Trumanand Lady Bird Johnson. Poor health and increasing frailty due to operations in August 2006 and April 2007 for blood clots in her legs has caused her to largely curtail her public life. Her health problems caused her to be unable to attend the funeral of her old friend and Former First Lady Lady Bird Johnsonin July 2007. Mrs. Ford's daughter Susan Fordrepresented her mother at the funeral service.
In April 2008, Betty Ford became the third President's wife to live to be 90, after
Bess Trumanand Lady Bird Johnson.
List of notable breast cancer patients
List of famous people with breast cancer
* Betty Ford Biography. Ford Library & Museum. Retrieved December 29, 2006, University of Texas: http://www.ford.utexas.edu/grf/bbfbiop.htm
* First Lady: Elizabeth "Betty" Bloomer Ford. First Lady: Biography. American President.org. Retrieved December 29, 2006, The Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia: http://www.americanpresident.org/history/geraldford/firstlady/
* Ford, Betty. (2006). In "Encyclopædia Britannica". Retrieved December 29, 2006, from "Encyclopædia Britannica Online": http://www.britannica.com/eb/article-9096417
* First Lady Biography: Betty Ford. firstladies.org. Retrieved December 29, 2006, The National First Ladies Library: http://www.firstladies.org/biographies/firstladies.aspx?biography=39 National First Ladies' Library biography]
* Presidential Medal of Freedom Recipient Martha Graham. MedalofFreedom.com. Americans.net. Retrieved December 29, 2006, http://www.medaloffreedom.com/MarthaGraham.htm
Second Lady of the United States
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