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Betty Ford
Betty Ford, official White House photo color, 1974.jpg
Official portrait, 1974
First Lady of the United States
In role
August 9, 1974 – January 20, 1977
President Gerald Ford
Preceded by Pat Nixon
Succeeded by Rosalynn Carter
Second Lady of the United States
In role
December 6, 1973 – August 9, 1974
Vice President Gerald Ford
Preceded by Judy Agnew
Succeeded by Happy Rockefeller
1st Chairwoman of the Betty Ford Center
In office
October 4, 1982 – January 25, 2005
Preceded by Position established
Succeeded by Susan Ford Bales
Personal details
Elizabeth Anne Bloomer

(1918-04-08)April 8, 1918
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Died July 8, 2011(2011-07-08) (aged 93)
Rancho Mirage, California, U.S.
Resting place Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum
Political party Republican
William Warren
(m. 1942; div. 1947)
(m. 1948; died 2006)
  • Michael
  • Jack
  • Steven
  • Susan
Signature Cursive signaure in ink

Elizabeth Anne Ford (née Bloomer; formerly Warren; April 8, 1918 – July 8, 2011) was the first lady of the United States from 1974 to 1977, as the wife of President Gerald Ford. As first lady, she was active in social policy and set a precedent as a politically active presidential spouse. Ford also served as the second lady of the United States from 1973 to 1974 when her husband was vice president.

Throughout her husband's time in the office of the presidency, she maintained high approval ratings and was considered to be an influential first lady. Ford was noted for raising breast cancer awareness following her 1974 mastectomy. In addition, she was a passionate supporter of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). As a leader in the women's rights movement, she gained fame as one of the most candid first ladies in history, commenting on the hot-button issues of the time, such as feminism, equal pay, the Equal Rights Amendment, and gun control. Surveys of historians conducted by the Siena College Research Institute have shown that historians regard Ford to be among the best and most courageous American first ladies.

For years after leaving the White House, Ford continued to enjoy great influence and popularity, continuing to rank in the top-ten of Gallup's annual most admired woman poll every year through 1991.

Ford was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by George H. W. Bush in 1991. She was also awarded the Congressional Gold Medal as a co-recipient with President Ford in 1998.

Early life and career

Betty Bloomer at age 18, 1936
Betty Bloomer at age 18, 1936

Ford was born Elizabeth Anne Bloomer in 1918 in Chicago, Illinois, the third child and only daughter of Hortense (née Neahr; 1884 – 1948) and William Stephenson Bloomer Sr. (1874–1934), who was a traveling salesman for Royal Rubber Co. She was called Betty as a child.

Hortense and William married on November 9, 1904, in Chicago. Betty's two older brothers were Robert (d. 1971) and William Jr. After the family lived briefly in Denver, Colorado, she grew up in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where she graduated from Central High School.

In 1926, when she was eight years old, her mother, who valued social graces, enrolled her in the Calla Travis Dance Studio in Grand Rapids, where Ford was taught ballet, tap dancing, and modern movement. Dance developed into a passion for her, and she decided she wanted to seek a career in it. At the age of 14, she began modeling clothes and teaching children popular dances, such as the foxtrot, waltz, and big apple, to earn money in the wake of the Great Depression. She worked with children with disabilities at the Mary Free Bed Home for Crippled Children. She studied dance at the Calla Travis Dance Studio, graduating in 1935. While she was still in high school, she started her own dance school, instructing both youth and adults.

When Bloomer was 16, her father died of carbon monoxide poisoning in the family's garage. He died the day before his 60th birthday. With her father's passing, her family lost its primary breadwinner, and her mother began working as a real estate agent to support the family. Her mother's actions in the wake of her father's passing are said to have been formative for her views in support of equal pay and gender equality.

In 1936, after graduating from high school, Bloomer proposed continuing her study of dance in New York City, but her mother refused on account of the relatively recent loss of her husband. She instead attended the Bennington School of Dance in Bennington, Vermont, for two summers, where she studied under director Martha Hill with choreographers Martha Graham and Hanya Holm. After being accepted by Graham as a student in 1940, Bloomer moved to New York to live in Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood; she worked as a fashion model for the John Robert Powers firm in order to finance her dance studies. She joined Graham's auxiliary troupe and eventually performed with the company at Carnegie Hall in New York City.

Bloomer's mother was opposed to her pursuing a career in dance and insisted that she return home, and, as a compromise, they agreed that Bloomer would return home for six months and, if she still wanted to return to New York City at the end of that time, her mother would not protest further. Bloomer became immersed in her life in Grand Rapids and did not return to New York. Her mother remarried, to family friend and neighbor Arthur Meigs Godwin, and Bloomer lived with them. She got a job as assistant to the fashion coordinator for Herpolsheimer's, a local department store. She also organized her own dance group and taught dance at various sites in Grand Rapids, including the Calla Travis Dance Studio. She further taught ballroom dancing lessons for children with visual impairment and hearing loss and gave weekly dance lessons to African American children.

Marriage to William G. Warren

In 1942, Elizabeth Bloomer married William G. Warren, whom she had known since she was 12. At the time they married, Warren worked for his own father in insurance sales. Shortly after they married, he began to sell insurance for another company. He later worked for the Continental Can Company, and after that for the Widdicomb Furniture Company. The couple moved frequently because of his work. At one point, they lived in Toledo, Ohio, where Elizabeth was employed at the department store Lasalle & Koch as a demonstrator, a job that entailed being a model and saleswoman. She worked a production line for a frozen food company in Fulton, New York. When they returned to Grand Rapids, she worked again at Herpolsheimer's, this time as the fashion coordinator. She had, three years into the marriage, concluded that their relationship was a failure. She desired to have a family with children and was unhappy with the frequent moves between cities she had experienced in her marriage. Warren was a diabetic, and was in poor health. Shortly after she decided to file for divorce, Warren fell into a coma. She paused her divorce, and supported him, living at Warren's family's home for the next two years as his health recovered. During these two years, she lived upstairs while he was nursed downstairs She worked jobs in order to support both herself and Warren. This experience has been credited with further cementing Ford's understanding of gender-based income inequalities between individuals doing the same work. After he recovered, they were divorced on September 22, 1947.

Marriage to Gerald Ford and motherhood

Gerald R. Ford, Jr., and Betty Ford following their marriage
Betty and Gerald Ford on their wedding day, 1948
Gerald Ford and Betty Ford Attending a Grand Rapids Campaign Event with Dwight Eisenhower and Mamie Eisenhower
Betty and Gerald Ford join Dwight D. Eisenhower and his wife Mamie Eisenhower at a Grand Rapids, Michigan, event for Dwight D. Eisenhower's 1952 presidential campaign.

In August 1947, she was introduced by mutual friends to Gerald Ford, a lawyer and World War II veteran who had just resumed his legal practice after returning from Navy service, and was planning to run for the United States House of Representatives. They married on October 15, 1948, at Grace Episcopal Church in Grand Rapids. Gerald Ford was in the middle of his campaign for the U.S. House of Representatives. In the first of adjustments for politics, he had asked her to delay the wedding until shortly before the primary election 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." For their honeymoon, the two briefly traveled to Ann Arbor, Michigan, where they attended a college football game between the Michigan Wolverines and the Northwestern Wildcats, before driving to Owosso, Michigan, to attend a campaign rally for Republican presidential nominee Thomas Dewey. The Fords would ultimately be married for the next 58 years, until Gerald Ford's death. An anecdote that was later reported was that, when Gerald Ford left Grand Rapids for Washington, D.C., Betty Ford's new sister-in-law Janet Ford remarked to her, "with Jerry, you'll never have to worry about other women. Your cross will be his work."

The Ford family
The Fords with their children in 1959
The Ford Family in the Oval Office
Ford (third from left) and her family in the Oval Office of the White House in 1974

Betty and Gerald Ford had four children together: Michael Gerald Ford (born 1950), John Gardner Ford (nicknamed Jack; born 1952), Steven Meigs Ford (born 1956), and Susan Elizabeth Ford (born 1957).

The Fords lived in Washington, D.C. after his election, until the spring of 1955, when the Fords moved into a house they constructed in the D.C. suburb of Alexandria, Virginia. Gerald Ford had ambitions to rise to the rank of speaker of the house, and therefore maintained a busy travel schedule, regularly crisscrossing the United States to fundraise and campaign on behalf of other Republicans in hopes that they would, in turn, provide him with the support he'd eventually need to become speaker. This meant that Gerald Ford was away from home for roughly half the year, placing a great burden on Ford to raise their children. As a mother, Ford never spanked or hit her children, believing that there were better, more constructive ways to deal with discipline and punishment.

Ford served as a parent-teacher association member, Sunday school teacher at Immanuel Church-on-the-Hill, and a Cub Scout "den mother". She regularly drove her children around to their activities, such as her sons' Little League Baseball games and her daughter's dance classes. She was also involved in her husband's political career by fulfilling the commitments expected of congressional spouses to help elevate her husband's regard among his House colleagues. She accompanied her husband to congressional and White House events, as well as on some trips abroad, and made herself available to newspaper and magazine articles. Ford also posed for newspaper publicity photographs and was a clothing model for charity fashion shows, after a Republican had urged her to do so since they felt that Democratic Party spouses had far outnumbered Republican spouses in such publicity-generating activity. Ford also volunteered for local charitable organizations, including serving as the program director of the Alexandria Cancer Fund Drive. Ford also held active membership in groups such as the 81st Congress Club and National Federation of Republican Women.

Ford's busy life took a toll. In 1964, a pinched nerve on the left side of Ford's neck sent her to the hospital for two weeks. After her pinched nerve, she began suffering several effects, including muscle spasms, periphrasic neuropathy, numbing the left side of her neck, and arthritis on her shoulder and arm. Ford's health problems and the stress of her husband's career (which saw him frequently away from their household) compounded, particularly after her husband's career became even more demanding after he became House minority leader in January 1965. In 1965, Ford suffered a significant nervous breakdown. This led her to seek psychiatric assistance. Ford received support from her family and managed to resume a busy lifestyle.

Ford accompanied her husband on a trip to mainland China in 1972. That same year, her husband brought up the possibility that he might retire from congress in 1977, which would make the 1974 United States House of Representatives election the last he would run in. This prospect elated Ford. Such talk was due to Gerald Ford, following the Republican Party's failure to win a majority in the 1972 United States House of Representatives elections, seeing it as unlikely that he would ever fulfill his ambition of becoming speaker of the House.

Second Lady of the United States (1973–1974)

Mr. and Mrs. Ford and Nixon 13 Oct 1973
The Fords pose with President Richard Nixon and First Lady Pat Nixon on October 13, 1973, the day after President Nixon nominated Ford to be appointed as his new vice president.
Betty Ford's swearing in dress, 1973
The Frankie Welch-designed dress that Ford wore to her husband's swearing-in as vice president

Spiro Agnew resigned as vice president on October 10, 1973. Two days later, on October 12, 1973, President Richard Nixon nominated Gerald Ford to serve as vice president. Ford felt an obligation to attend her husband's testimony at his confirmation hearings. During his testimony, Gerald Ford was questioned about attending psychiatric care. After this, Betty Ford was transparent with the news media that she had received psychiatric care. She explained that, while her husband had attended two sessions with a psychiatric doctor, those sessions were for her care, and not care of his own. Gerald Ford was confirmed as vice president by the United States Congress on December 6, 1973, and Gerald Ford took the oath of office before a joint session of the United States Congress, placing his hand upon a bible which Betty Ford held. With her husband assuming the office of vice president, Ford became the second lady of the United States.

Before the end of December, Ford played a role in establishing the Republican Women's Federal Forum, partnering with Barbara Bush, whose husband George H. W. Bush was chairman of the Republican National Committee at the time. The organization sought to bring together political spouses and female government federal employees to discuss current party activates and ideas about legislation.

As she became a more active second lady, Ford adopted an objective of promoting the arts. In April 1974, she made her first official solo trip as second lady when she spent two-days visiting the states of Georgia and Tennessee to help in publicizing the "ARTRAIN", which was a traveling exhibit of art, visual displays, and performance pieces housed in six railway cars, and which was to travel through small towns across the southern United States. Ford was the most prominent national supporter of the project. Her candor on this trip received a positive reception by the news media. Among those she met on the two-day trip was Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn Carter. The Carters would, ultimately be the Fords’ successors as president and first lady after Carter defeated Ford in the 1976 United States presidential election. On May 31, 1973, Ford made her first major speech when she gave a commencement address to the graduates of the Westminster Choir College. This set a contrast with First Lady Pat Nixon, who routinely rejected invitations to give formal speeches. Ford was also observed as upgrading her wardrobe, adding designer clothing. In addition to the arts, Ford also gave focus to projects helping the disabled during her time as second lady.

On March 12, 1974, the Fords hosted a state dinner for King Hussein of Jordan after president Nixon, with a week's notice, asked Vice President Ford to take over for him in hosting the already-scheduled state dinner. The dinner was held in the John Quincy Adam's Drawing Room, one of the Diplomatic Reception Rooms at the United States Department of State headquarters at the Harry S Truman Building.

In June 1974, Ford represented the Nixon administration by attending the funeral of Alberta Williams King, the assassinated mother of the late civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. Other Nixon administration official figures did not attend, continuing with other obligations. Ford was the only individual in attendance at the funeral not directly ingrained in the civil rights movement, with the exception of Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter. Ford's attendance at the funeral was, in actuality, a break from the administration. Ford had believed it to be of great importance for the administration to show an expression of direct concern pertaining to the assassination, while Nixon's staff disagreed with her. Ford also broke from the administration in giving her support to the prospect of federally-funded child daycare, which the Nixon administration opposed.

Ford had an extremely busy schedule by July 1974. Magazines such as Vogue and Ladies Home Journal were planning to publish spreads on Ford in upcoming issues. With her husband, as vice president, tasked with heavily campaigning on behalf of his party for the 1974 midterm elections, Ford occasionally hit the campaign trail herself. Ford had declared that she would be accompanying her husband at campaign functions, "when he wants me to." The Fords had planned to make a diplomatic trip to European nations after the midterm elections.

Both Betty and Gerald Ford refused to comment on speculation that President Nixon might be forced out of office due to the Watergate scandal. Ford did indirectly indicate her willingness to step into the role of first lady by affirming that she would make any sacrifices required for her husband to carry out his constitutional obligations, but also opined that it would be traumatic if the nation had to endure a president being forced from office. Ford also publicly expressed admiration and friendship toward First Lady Pat Nixon.

First Lady of the United States (1974–1977)

Ford sworn-in
Vice President Gerald Ford is sworn in as the 38th President of the United States by Chief Justice Warren Burger in the East Room at the White House as Betty Ford looks on.

On August 9, 1974, after the resignation of Richard Nixon (who was facing the prospect of impeachment and potential removal from office), Gerald Ford ascended to the position of president of the United States, and Betty Ford became the first lady of the United States. As was the case during Gerald Ford's vice presidential swearing-in, Betty Ford held the Bible upon which he placed his hand while taking his oath of office. In his remarks at his inauguration, Gerald Ford remarked, "I am indebted to no man and only one woman, my dear wife, Betty, as I begin this very difficult job."


Ford was popular with the American public. Her overall approval rating was, at times, as high as 75%. Ford's popularity often was higher than her husband's. Ford said, during her husband's failed 1976 presidential campaign, "I would give my life to have Jerry have my poll numbers." This reflects a common trend of American first ladies often being more popular than the presidents to which they are married.

Year Rank Year Rank Year Rank
1974 2nd 1980 3rd 1986 8th
1975 1st 1981 5th 1987 7th
1976 no poll conducted 1982 8th 1988 5th
1977 4th 1983 4th 1989 7th
1978 1st 1984 6th 1990 8th
1979 5th (tied with Jaclyn Smith) 1985 7th 1991 10th
Segment polled Polling group Date Approve Disapprove Sample size Margin-of-error Source
National poll Roper Center 1976 71% 24%
National poll Roper Center 1975 50% 36%

Social policy and political activism

Photograph of a Woman Holding a Sign in Portland Maine, Supporting First Lady Betty Ford For Her Stance on Various... - NARA - 186817
A sign being displayed in Portland, Maine, in August 1975 expressing support for Ford's stance on various women's issues

During her time as first lady, Ford was an outspoken advocate of women's rights and was a prominent force in the Women's Movement of the 1970s. Her active political role prompted Time to call her the country's "Fighting First Lady" and was the reason they profiled her, among several others, to represent the "American Women" as the magazine's 1975 Person of the Year. On September 4, 1974, weeks after becoming first lady, Ford conducted press conference in the State Dining Room of the White House in which she remarked that she, "would like to be remembered in a very kind way; also as a constructive wife of a president."

First Lady Betty Ford’s “Bloomer Flag”
A handmade flag given to Betty Ford that demonstrates her support for the Equal Rights Amendment

Ford avidly supported the proposed Equal Rights Amendment. In her September 4, 1974 press conference, Ford declared her support for it. Ford lobbied state legislatures to ratify the amendment, and took on opponents of the amendment. Ford utilized phone calls, letter-writing, and telegrams as means of lobbying in support of the ERA.

Ford successfully lobbied her husband to, in 1975, sign an executive order to establish the National Commission on the Observance of International Women's Year. Ford also, unsuccessfully, lobbied her husband to appoint the first woman to the Supreme Court of the United States or as a running mate in the 1976 election. Ford took personal credit for the appointment of Carla Anderson Hills as secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

In May 1975, during a four-day trip, Ford met with former Prime Minister of the Republic of Vietnam Nguyễn Cao Kỳ to discuss Southeast Asia refugees. Afterwards, Ford stated she was impressed with the conduct of the refugees.

Ford's involvement in political issues received some conservative criticism. Phyllis Schlafly accused Ford of acting improperly by intervening in state affairs. Some women protested Ford's lobbying for the ERA by carrying placards outside of the White House reading "Betty Ford, Get Off the Phone". On June 30, 1976, Ford attended the opening of "Remember the Ladies", a Revolutionary War-era women's exhibit. She drew boos from demonstrators against the Equal Rights Amendment in stating, "This exhibit about neglected Americans should give us strength and courage to seek equal rights for women today."

The arts

As First Lady, Ford was an advocate of the arts. She successfully lobbied her husband to award the Presidential Medal of Freedom to choreographer and dancer Martha Graham in 1976. She received an award from Parsons The New School for Design in recognition of her style.

State dinners

King Hussein of Jordan, President Gerald R. Ford, First Lady Betty Ford, and Queen Alia Standing in the North Portico of the White House Prior to a State Dinner - NARA - 23869121
Betty and Gerald Ford with King Hussein and Queen Alia of Jordan at the first state dinner of Gerald Ford's presidency on August 16, 1974
Anne-Aymone Giscard d'Estaing, First Lady Betty Ford, President Valery Giscard d'Estaing of France, and President Gerald R. Ford Talking at the Close of a Receiving Line at a State Dinner - NARA - 23869223
Betty and Gerald with French President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing and his wife Anne-Aymone Giscard d'Estaing at a May 17, 1976, state dinner in their honor
The Fords host Queen Elizabeth II and her husband the Duke of Edinburgh in the President's Dining Room during a 1976 state visit.

Despite the brevity of her husband's presidency (roughly two and a half years), he hosted 33 state dinners, the fifth most state dinners of any United States president. The first of these came only a week into Ford's presidency, hosting King Hussein of Jordan on August 16, 1974. Once she became first lady, it fell to Ford to arrange this already-scheduled dinner. She found out of this upcoming dinner and her responsibility for planning it through a phone call she received within 24-hours after her husband's swearing-in as president. As previously mentioned, the Fords had hosted a state dinner for King Hussein months earlier, during Gerald Ford's vice presidency, on March 12, 1974, after president Nixon asked then-Vice President Ford to take over for him in hosting a planned dinner for the King. At the first state dinner that she arranged as first lady, Ford revived dancing as an activity of White House state dinners. The Nixons had previously removed dancing from the state dinners during Nixon's presidency. At the state dinners of the Ford presidency, the president and first lady always led off the dancing, and dancing often lasted beyond midnight.

The Fords opted to have eclectic array of guests at their state dinners, including notable celebrities from the entertainment industry. The Fords' children often also attended the dinners they hosted.

During their final year in the White House, the Fords hosted eleven state dinners. This large number of state dinners was, in part, due to great interest from foreign dignitaries in visiting the United States for a state dinner amid the United States bicentennial celebrations. Ford made the decision that year to erect a tent in the White House Rose Garden to host dinners outside. For state dinners held using this tent, the receptions, entertainment, and dancing portions of the evenings were still held inside of the White House.

Among the most notable state dinners the Fords hosted was a July 7, 1976 state dinner honoring Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh. This dinner was part of the American bicentennial celebrations, and was held in tent on the South Lawn of the White House.

Of the state dinners she planned, Ford said, "From the beginning, Jerry and I tried to make the White House a place where people could have fun and enjoy themselves. Most of all we wanted the state dinners to express the very best about America, particularly during the bicentennial year."

Dishes that Ford particularly liked serving at state dinners included wild rice, Columbia River salmon, soufflé, and flambé. The state dinners that Ford planned as first lady made a deliberate effort to showcase American ingredients. By late 1974, Ford had shifted to exclusively serving wine that was American-cultivated at state dinners. The November 12, 1974 state dinner for Austrian Chancellor Bruno Kreisky saw the first instance in which a wine from the Fords' home state of Michigan was served at a White House state dinner, with wine from the Tabor Hill Winery being served. It was not until 2016 that a Michigan wine would again be served at a White House state dinner.

Diplomatic trips

First Lady Betty Ford Shares a Dance Move with One of the Students while Touring the Central May 7th College of Art in Peking, People's Republic of China - NARA - 7062593
Ford joining dance students at the May 7th College of Art in Beijing, China (December 3, 1975)

Ford accompanied her husband abroad on several diplomatic trips. Among the nations that Ford accompanied her husband to were China, Poland, Romania, and Yugoslavia.

Ford did not take any solo trips aboad as first lady. She is the most recent first lady not to have done so. Ford's failure to conduct a solo trip is not all that extraordinary, however. The first instance of a first lady conducting one had been Eleanor Roosevelt in 1942. Ford's recent predecessor Lady Bird Johnson was among other first ladies that did not conduct solo trips abroad.

During the Fords' 1976 trip to mainland China, when being shown an exhibition by a Chinese arts college dance group, Ford decided to join the dancers. Photos of this moment were published widely in the American press, resulting in Betty Ford somewhat upstaging President Ford in the press.

Philanthropic causes

Ford supported numerous charities as first lady. Ford assisted in fundraising for the little-known Hospital for Sick Children in Washington, D.C., whose patients were predominantly African American. She also fundraised for No Greater Love, in appreciation of its work benefiting Children of Vietnam War MIA and POWs. She served as the honorary president of the National Lupus Foundation, regarding lupus as a disease which impacted women, yet received minimal public attention. Her philanthropic support additionally placed a specific focus on charities serving children with special needs.

Role in the 1976 presidential campaign

First Lady Betty Ford Dancing on the Cabinet Room Table - NARA - 45644161
Photograph of Ford dancing on the table of the Cabinet Room

In November 1975, it was reported by the Associated Press that Ford's husband's advisors, who had previously worried her outspoken comments would hurt him in the 1976 presidential election, were now recognizing her popularity and desiring for her to have a greater role in the campaign. Ford ultimately played an important role in the 1976 election campaign. Ford made campaign appearances and delivered speeches across the United States.

Ford was also used, both by Ford supporters and detractors, as a symbol of liberal Republicanism, with her politics contrasting with the Republican Party's conservative and moderate wings.

During the campaign, many Ford supporters wore campaign buttons with phrases like "Betty's Husband for President in '76" and "Keep Betty in the White House". The use of Ford in such a manner to promote her husband's candidacy was not the work of the campaign itself, but rather, produced by supporters outside of the campaign organization. The campaigns of the previous three presidents that sought election to an additional term (Dwight D. Eisenhower, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon) had needed to manufacture campaign publicity involving their first ladies (Mamie Eisenhower, Lady Bird Johnson, and Pat Nixon). In contrast, there was tremendous organic excitement for Betty Ford among supporters of the campaign.

Ford campaigned actively both during primary elections and the general election. Many of Ford’s views were aligned-with, or even more liberal than, Rosalyn Carter, the wife of Ford’s Democratic general election opponent Jimmy Carter.

During the primaries, Ford recorded radio advertisements on behalf of the campaign that were broadcast in New Hampshire. She also traveled to Iowa before its caucus, and delivered a speech on behalf of the president (who had been unable to make his planned appearance) in which she labeled herself as being his political partner. The campaign made a deliberate effort, ahead of the 1976 Republican National Convention, of sending Ford to liberal and moderate-leaning states and not more conservative states in the western and southern United States.

Between Labor Day and election day, for the general election campaign, Ford conducted multi-stop speaking tours, during which she visited western states (including California, Colorado, Texas, and Utah) as well was northern midwest states including Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin.

The heavy campaigning placed a strain on Ford's health. During the general election, her busy campaign activity saw the reigniting of her pinched nerve. However, even after this, Ford continued with her planned campaign schedule.

After Gerald Ford's defeat by Jimmy Carter in the 1976 presidential election she delivered her husband's concession speech because he had lost his voice while campaigning. The speech was delivered on the day after the election. This is the only time that a major United States presidential candidate's spouse has delivered their concession on their behalf.

After her husband's narrow defeat, there was some anecdotal speculation that Ford may have both have helped to alienate conservative Republicans from voting for her husband and at the same time helped attract him support from liberal and moderate Republicans, Democrats, and independents.

Post–White House life and career

After leaving the White House in 1977, Ford continued to lead an active public life. In addition to founding the Betty Ford Center, she remained active in women's issues, taking on numerous speaking engagements and lending her name to charities for fundraising. Many of Ford's most significant contributions as an activist came following the Fords' departure from the White House.

In 1977, the Fords moved to Rancho Mirage, California.

In March 1977, Ford signed with NBC News to appear in two news specials within the following two years along with contributing to Today, and jointly signed with her husband to write their memoirs. In June 1977, Ford was a speaker at the Arthritis Association Convention. In September of that year, Ford traveled to Moscow for a television program taping and to serve as hostess for The Nutcracker. In November 1977, Ford appeared at the opening session of the National Women's Conference in Houston, Texas.

Women's movement

Photograph of Ford standing outside of the Betty Ford Center

Ford continued to be an active leader and activist of the feminist movement after the Ford administration. She continued to strongly advocate and lobby politicians and state legislatures for passage of the ERA. In 1977, President Jimmy Carter appointed Ford to the second National Commission on the Observance of International Women's Year (the first had been appointed by President Ford). That same year, she joined First Ladies Lady Bird Johnson and Rosalynn Carter to open and participate in the National Women's Conference in Houston, Texas, where she endorsed measures in the convention's National Plan of Action, a report sent to the state legislatures, the U.S. Congress, and the President on how to improve the status of American women. Ford continued to be an outspoken supporter of equal pay for women, breast cancer awareness, and the ERA throughout her life. She was an active member of the Junior League.

Rosalynn Carter with Betty Ford and Ladybird Johnson at the National Womens Conference. - NARA - 176935 (1)
Ford (center) together at the 1977 National Women's Conference with First Lady Rosalynn Carter (left) and fellow former first lady Lady Bird Johnson (right)

Ford continued to advocate for the ratification of the ERA. In November 1977, Ford and First Lady Rosalynn Carter joined together to advocate for its ratification at the National Women's Conference in Houston. In 1978, the deadline for ratification of the ERA was extended from 1979 to 1982, resulting largely from a march of a hundred thousand people on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington. The march was led by prominent feminist leaders, including Ford, Bella Abzug, Elizabeth Chittick, Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem. In 1981, Eleanor Smeal, the National Organization for Women's president, announced Ford's appointment to be the co-chair, with Alan Alda, of the ERA Countdown Campaign. In November 1981, Ford stated that Governor of Illinois James R. Thompson had not done enough in support of the ERA as well as her disappointment with First Lady Nancy Reagan not being in favor of the measure, though also relayed her hopes to change the incumbent First Lady's mind in further encounters with her. As the deadline approached, Ford led marches, parades and rallies for the ERA with other feminists, including First Daughter Maureen Reagan and various Hollywood actors. Ford was credited with rejuvenating the ERA movement and inspiring more women to continue working for the ERA. She visited states, including Illinois, where ratification was believed to have the most realistic chance of passing. On October 12, 1981, Ford spoke in support of the ERA on a rally held at the National Mall. The amendment did not receive enough states' ratification.

Other matters

Ford tackled the stigmatized issue of HIV/AIDS during the HIV/AIDS crisis. She involved herself in the Los Angeles AIDS Project. In 1985, Ford received the Los Angeles AIDS Projects "Commitment to Life Award".

Ford supported gay and lesbian causes, speaking against discrimination in the United States military.

In 1985, Ford received the Award for Greatest Public Service Benefiting the Disadvantaged, an annual award given by the Jefferson Awards. That same year, Ford received the Golden Plate Award of the American Academy of Achievement. This was formally presented to her by President Ford, who was an Academy Awards Council member.

In 1987, Ford underwent quadruple coronary bypass surgery and recovered without complications.

In the early 1990s, Ford voiced admiration for First Lady Hillary Clinton and praised her for taking an active role in policy within her husband's administration by leading the Clinton health care plan

In 1987, Ford was inducted into the Michigan Women's Hall of Fame. On November 18, 1991, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George H. W. Bush. In 1999, she and President Ford were jointly awarded Congressional Gold Medals. That same year, a Golden Palm Star on the Palm Springs Walk of Stars was dedicated to her and her husband. In 2000, the Lasker Foundation awarded Ford its annual Mary Woodard Lasker Public Service Award. On May 8, 2003, Ford received the Woodrow Wilson Award in Los Angeles for her public service, awarded by the Woodrow Wilson Center of the Smithsonian Institution.

During her and President Ford's later years together, they resided in Rancho Mirage and in Beaver Creek, Colorado. President Ford died, aged 93, of heart failure on December 26, 2006, at their Rancho Mirage home. Despite her advanced age and own frail physical condition, Ford traveled across the country and took part in the funeral events in California, Washington, D.C., and Michigan. Following her husband's death, Ford continued to live in Rancho Mirage. Poor health and increasing frailty due to operations in August 2006 and April 2007 for blood clots in her legs caused her to largely curtail her public life. Ill health prevented Ford from attending the funeral of former First Lady Lady Bird Johnson's in July 2007, and her daughter Susan Ford Bales instead represented her at the funeral service.

Death and funeral

Burial site of Betty and Gerald Ford

Betty Ford died of natural causes on July 8, 2011, three months after her 93rd birthday, at Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage. Ford left $500,000 to the Betty Ford Center.

Funeral services were held in Palm Desert, California, on July 12, 2011, with more than 800 people in attendance, including former president George W. Bush, then-First Lady Michelle Obama, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, herself a former First Lady, former First Ladies Rosalynn Carter, who gave a eulogy, and Nancy Reagan.

On July 14, a second service was held at Grace Episcopal Church in Grand Rapids, with eulogies given by Lynne Cheney, former Ford Museum director Richard Norton Smith, and Ford's son Steven. In attendance were former president Bill Clinton, former vice president Dick Cheney and former first lady Barbara Bush. In her remarks, Mrs. Cheney noted that July 14 would have been Gerald Ford's 98th birthday. After the service, Betty Ford was buried next to her husband on the museum grounds.

In July 2018, a statue of Ford was unveiled outside of the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Awards and honors

First Lady Betty Ford with Members of the National Women’s Party Following the Presentation of the First Alice Paul Award to Mrs. Ford in the Map Room at the White House - NARA - 23898579
The National Woman's Party presents Ford with a plaque honoring her as its inaugural “Alice Paul Award” in the White House’s Map Room on January 11, 1977 (the 92nd birthday of Alice Paul)

In 1975, when Time named "American women" as its "Time Person of the Year", the magazine profiled Ford as one of eleven women selected to represent "American women".

Other honors and awards include:

  • 1975 National Woman's Party “Alice Paul Award”
  • 1975 Philadelphia Association for Retarded Citizens "Humanitarian Award"
  • 1975 National Art Association "Distinguished Woman of the Year Award"
  • 1975 Anti-Defamation League Women's Division "Rita V. Tishman Human Relations Award"
  • 1975 Florists' Transworld Delivery "Golden Rose Award"
  • Order of the Pleiades (awarded in 1975 by Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi of Iran)
  • 1976 Parsons Annual Critics Awards Show "Parsons Award" (an award given to individuals that, "not only advance the cause of American fashion, but in doing so serve as an inpiration for students who are about to assume professional and citizenship roles in American society.")
  • 1978 Eleanor Roosevelt Humanities Award
  • 1981 Friends of Hebrew University "Scopus Award"
  • 1982 American Cancer Society "Hubert Humphrey Inspirational Award"
  • 1983 Susan G. Komen Foundation "Komen Foundation Award"
  • 1984 National Arthritis Foundation "Harding Award"
  • 1985 Jefferson Awards for Public Service "Award for Greatest Public Service Benefiting the Disadvantaged"
  • 1985 American Academy of Achievement "Golden Plate Award"
  • 1985 AIDS Project Los Angeles "Commitment to Life Award"
  • Inducted into the Michigan Women's Hall of Fame in 1987
  • 1987 International Center for the Disabled "Freedom of Human Spirit Award"
  • 1988 College of Communication at the University of Texas "McGovern Distinguished Leadership Award"
  • "Citation of Layman for Distinguished Service" awarded by the American Medical Association in 1979
  • Presidential Medal of Freedom (awarded in 1991 by President George H. W. Bush)
  • 1991 International Women's Forum "Hall of Fame Award"
  • 1995 Samaritan Institute "National Samaritan Award"
  • 1995 Columbia Hospital for Women "Breast Cancer Awareness Lifetime Achievement Award"
  • 1996 Bob Hope Classic Ball awardee
  • 1997 American Institute for Public Service "Jefferson Award"
  • 1997 Michigan Women's Foundation "Women of Achievement & Courage" award
  • 1997 Women's International Center "Living Legacy Award"
  • 1998 Common Wealth Award of Distinguished Service
  • 1998 Ronald McDonald House Charities "Award of Excellence"
  • Congressional Gold Medal in 1999 (jointly awarded to Betty and Gerald Ford)
  • Golden Palm Star on the Palm Springs Walk of Stars (jointly awarded to Betty and Gerald Ford in 1999)
  • 1999 American Hospital Association "C. Everett Koop Health Award"
  • 2000 Lasker Foundation Mary Woodard Lasker Public Service Award
  • 2003 Smithsonian Institution Woodrow Wilson Center "Woodrow Wilson Award"
  • National Women's Hall of Fame (inducted posthumously in 2013)

Things and places named for Ford

  • Betty Ford Cancer Research Center at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles, California (named after Ford in 1978)
  • Betty Ford Center for Comprehensive Breast Diagnosis at Columbia Hospital for Women in Washington, D.C. (named for ford in 1980; hospital now defunct)
  • Betty Ford Alpine Gardens in Vail, Colorado
  • Susan G. Komen Foundation "Betty Ford Award" (formerly known as the "Women Foundation Award")

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Betty Ford para niños

  • List of breast cancer patients according to occupation
  • List of first ladies of the United States
  • Second-wave feminism

Images for kids

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Betty Ford Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.