159 Facts About Betty Ford


Elizabeth Anne Ford was the first lady of the United States from 1974 to 1977, as the wife of President Gerald Ford.


Betty Ford served as the second lady of the United States from 1973 to 1974 when her husband was vice president.


Betty Ford was noted for raising breast cancer awareness following her 1974 mastectomy.


Surveys of historians conducted by the Siena College Research Institute have shown that historians regard Betty Ford to be among the best and most courageous American first ladies.


For years after leaving the White House, Betty 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.


Betty Ford was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal as a co-recipient with President Ford in 1998.


Betty Ford was born Elizabeth Anne Bloomer in 1918 in Chicago, Illinois, the third child and only daughter of Hortense and William Stephenson Bloomer Sr.


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 Betty Ford was taught ballet, tap dancing, and modern movement.


Betty Ford worked with children with disabilities at the Mary Free Bed Home for Crippled Children.


Betty Ford studied dance at the Calla Travis Dance Studio, graduating in 1935.


When Betty Ford herself began the process of recovering from her own alcoholism, she disclosed to the public that both her father and her brother Bob had suffered from alcoholism as well.


Betty Ford 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.


Betty Ford joined Graham's auxiliary troupe and eventually performed with the company at Carnegie Hall in New York City.


Betty Ford's mother remarried, to family friend and neighbor Arthur Meigs Godwin, and Bloomer lived with them.


Betty Ford got a job as assistant to the fashion coordinator for Herpolsheimer's, a local department store.


Betty Ford organized her own dance group and taught dance at various sites in Grand Rapids, including the Calla Travis Dance Studio.


Betty Ford further taught ballroom dancing lessons for children with visual impairment and hearing loss and gave weekly dance lessons to African American children.


Betty Ford later worked for the Continental Can Company, and after that for the Widdicomb Furniture Company.


Betty Ford worked a production line for a frozen food company in Fulton, New York.


Betty Ford had, three years into the marriage, concluded that their relationship was a failure.


Betty Ford desired to have a family with children and was unhappy with the frequent moves between cities she had experienced in her marriage.


Betty Ford paused her divorce, and supported him, living at Warren's family's home for the next two years as his health recovered.


Gerald Betty Ford was in the middle of his campaign for the US House of Representatives.


Gerald Betty 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.


Betty Ford served as a parent-teacher association member, Sunday school teacher at Immanuel Church-on-the-Hill, and a Cub Scout "den mother".


Betty Ford regularly drove her children around to their activities, such as her sons' Little League Baseball games and her daughter's dance classes.


Betty Ford was 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.


Betty Ford 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.


Betty Ford 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.


Betty Ford volunteered for local charitable organizations, including serving as the program director of the Alexandria Cancer Fund Drive.


Betty Ford held active membership in groups such as the 81st Congress Club and National Federation of Republican Women.


In 1964, a pinched nerve on the left side of Betty Ford's neck sent her to the hospital for two weeks.


In 1965, Betty Ford suffered a significant nervous breakdown, erupting in severe crying that had appeared inexplicable to others.


Betty Ford had weekly meetings with a psychiatrist approximately between August 1965 and April 1967.


Betty Ford received support from her family and managed to resume a busy lifestyle.


However, notably, Betty Ford had not managed to address her increasing prescription pain medication dependency, which sometimes saw her taking as many as twenty pills in a single day.


Betty Ford accompanied her husband on a trip to mainland China in 1972.


Such talk was due to Gerald Betty 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.


Two days later, on October 12,1973, President Richard Nixon nominated Gerald Betty Ford to serve as vice president.


Betty Ford felt an obligation to attend her husband's testimony at his confirmation hearings.


Betty Ford 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.


The media "broke" the story that Betty Ford had a previous marriage and had been divorced, initially reporting it as a secret revelation.


However, Betty Ford simply responded by giving the explanation that it was not something she had tried to hide, but, rather, something she had only not shared with the news media because none of them had broached the topic in their previous questions to her.


At one point, Betty Ford disclosed to the public that her husband had previously promised her that he would retire from the House of Representatives in 1976 in order to return to private legal practice and dedicate more time to his family.


Betty Ford became overwhelmed by the media attention she received and became somewhat reclusive for a period early into her time as second lady.


However, by the spring of 1974, Betty Ford was seen as embracing her position as second lady, becoming less reclusive and more active.


Betty Ford was the most prominent national supporter of the project.


On May 31,1973, Betty Ford made her first major speech when she gave a commencement address to the graduates of the Westminster Choir College.


Betty Ford was observed as upgrading her wardrobe, adding designer clothing.


In June 1974, Betty 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.


Betty 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.


Betty 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.


Betty Ford broke from the administration in giving her support to the prospect of federally-funded child daycare, which the Nixon administration opposed.


Magazines such as Vogue and Ladies Home Journal were planning to publish spreads on Betty Ford in upcoming issues.


Betty 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 opined that it would be traumatic if the nation had to endure a president being forced from office.


Betty Ford publicly expressed admiration and friendship toward First Lady Pat Nixon.


Active in social policy, Betty Ford broke new ground as a politically active presidential spouse.


Repeatedly speaking out on women's issues, Betty Ford was a leader in the changing status of women in American society.


Betty Ford took these stances despite recognizing that they created a political risk of conservative backlash against her husband.


However, not everything Betty Ford did as first lady broke tradition.


Betty Ford enjoyed the traditional role as hostess of the White House and on a daily basis spent most of her energy on the family, health, and filling in for her husband on the hustings.


Betty Ford filmed an interview with the television news program 60 Minutes which was broadcast on August 10,1975.


In January 1976, Betty Ford made a cameo appearance on the popular television program The Mary Tyler Moore Show.


Betty Ford was observed audibly telling her husband "I love you" following a kiss they shared right after he was sworn in as president.


Later that day, President Ford was caught momentarily patting Betty's buttocks before the press gathered outside of their Virginia residence.


Betty Ford ranked as one of the top-10 most admired women in the results of Gallup's annual most admired man and woman poll every year from 1974 through 1991, with the exception of Gallup having failed to conduct such a poll in 1976.


Contrarily to her, while President Betty Ford ranked in the top-10 positions of most admired men in multiple years, he never managed to top it.


In Good Housekeeping's annual readers' poll of most admired women, Betty Ford placed second in 1974 and first in 1975.


In January 1976, the editors of the New York News Service wrote that Betty Ford was, "one of the most charming and popular First Ladies ever to occupy the White House".


Betty Ford lobbied state legislatures to ratify the amendment, and took on opponents of the amendment.


Betty Ford utilized phone calls, letter-writing, and telegrams as means of lobbying in support of the ERA.


Betty 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.


Betty Ford, 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.


Betty 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, Betty Ford met with former Prime Minister of the Republic of Vietnam Nguyen Cao Ky to discuss Southeast Asia refugees.


Phyllis Schlafly accused Betty 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, Betty Ford attended the opening of "Remember the Ladies", a Revolutionary War-era women's exhibit.


Weeks after Betty Ford became first lady, she underwent a mastectomy for breast cancer on September 28,1974, after having been diagnosed with the disease.


Betty Ford was portrayed as an ideal patient within a success narrative that presented the key sequences of her breast cancer diagnosis and treatment in a progressive, linear fashion that inspired optimism.


Betty Ford's coverage minimized the complexity of breast cancer as a disease and ignored the debates surrounding best treatment practices.


Betty Ford successfully lobbied her husband to award the Presidential Medal of Freedom to choreographer and dancer Martha Graham in 1976.


Betty Ford received an award from Parsons The New School for Design in recognition of her style.


The first of these came only a week into Betty Ford's presidency, hosting King Hussein of Jordan on August 16,1974.


Once she became first lady, it fell to Betty Ford to arrange this already-scheduled dinner.


Betty Ford 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.


At the first state dinner that she arranged as first lady, Betty Ford revived dancing as an activity of White House state dinners.


Betty Ford made the decision that year to erect a tent in the White House Rose Garden to host dinners outside.


Dishes that Betty Ford particularly liked serving at state dinners included wild rice, Columbia River salmon, souffle, and flambe.


The state dinners that Betty Ford planned as first lady made a deliberate effort to showcase American ingredients.


Betty Ford did not take any solo trips aboad as first lady.


Betty Ford is the most recent first lady not to have done so.


Betty Ford assisted in fundraising for the little-known Hospital for Sick Children in Washington, DC, whose patients were predominantly African American.


Betty Ford fundraised for No Greater Love, in appreciation of its work benefiting Children of Vietnam War MIA and POWs.


Betty Ford served as the honorary president of the National Lupus Foundation, regarding lupus as a disease which impacted women, yet received minimal public attention.


Betty Ford ultimately played an important role in the 1976 election campaign.


Betty Ford made campaign appearances and delivered speeches across the United States.


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


Betty Ford campaigned actively both during primary elections and the general election.


Many of Betty Ford's views were aligned-with, or even more liberal than, Rosalyn Carter, the wife of Betty Ford's Democratic general election opponent Jimmy Carter.


Betty Ford traveled to Iowa before its caucus, and delivered a speech on behalf of the president in which she labeled herself as being his political partner.


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


However, even after this, Betty Ford continued with her planned campaign schedule.


Betty Ford reads her husband's 1976 presidential concession speech to the press.


Unknown to Carter at the time, this was likely due to Betty Ford's fragility caused by her prescription drug abuse.


When Betty Ford attempted to postpone the plans a second time, President-elect Carter called the White House and threatened to make a fuss in the news if the tour was not held as planned.


Betty Ford capitulated and gave a brief, but cordial, tour of the White House to Rosalyn Carter on November 22,1976, coinciding with President-elect Carter's White House meeting with President Betty Ford.


On January 19,1977, her last full day as first lady, Betty Ford used her training as a Martha Graham dancer to jump up on the Cabinet Room table.


Gerald Betty Ford did not know about or see the photo until 1994.


Betty Ford stands in the lower-left corner of this image.


In March 1977, Betty 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, Betty Ford was a speaker at the Arthritis Association Convention.


In November 1977, Betty Ford appeared at the opening session of the National Women's Conference in Houston, Texas.


Betty Ford had suffered from a dependency on prescription medication and from alcoholism prior even to her husband's presidency.


Betty Ford had, particularly, become addicted to prescription medication that she had been originally prescribed in the early 1960s to treat a pinched nerve.


Betty Ford took doses of this medication in excess of her prescription.


The fact that Betty Ford had, for years, been given tranquilizers to treat a pinched nerve in her neck, was public knowledge as far back as her time as second lady.


Betty Ford agreed, that day, to detox from her medicine.


Betty Ford, ultimately agreed to attend rehab at the Naval Regional Medical Center in Long Beach, California.


Betty Ford registered herself at the hospital on April 11,1978.


Betty Ford's transparency was praised by experts in drug abuse treatment, who predicted that it would make a major and positive impact.


The week she entered rehab, Betty Ford disclosed her addiction to prescription medication.


Days later, Betty Ford disclosed to the public that she had come to realize that she was additionally an alcoholic.


Betty Ford disclosed her alcoholism through a statement that a family spokesman read on her behalf at a press conference held outside of the hospital.


Betty Ford published her first memoir in 1978, The Times of My Life, in which she discussed her battle with addiction.


Betty Ford partnered with her friend Ambassador Leonard Firestone to found it.


Betty Ford served as chair of the board of directors.


Betty Ford co-authored with Chris Chase a book about her treatment, Betty: A Glad Awakening.


In 2005, Betty Ford relinquished her chair of the center's board of directors to her daughter Susan.


Betty Ford had held the top post at the center since its founding.


Betty Ford continued to be an active leader and activist of the feminist movement after the Betty Ford administration.


Betty Ford continued to strongly advocate and lobby politicians and state legislatures for passage of the ERA.


Betty Ford continued to be an outspoken supporter of equal pay for women, breast cancer awareness, and the ERA throughout her life.


Betty Ford was an active member of the Junior League.


Betty Ford continued to advocate for the ratification of the ERA.


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 relayed her hopes to change the incumbent First Lady's mind in further encounters with her.


Betty Ford was credited with rejuvenating the ERA movement and inspiring more women to continue working for the ERA.


Betty Ford visited states, including Illinois, where ratification was believed to have the most realistic chance of passing.


On October 12,1981, Betty Ford spoke in support of the ERA on a rally held at the National Mall.


In 2004, Ford reaffirmed her pro-abortion rights stance and her support for the 1973 US Supreme Court decision in Roe v Wade, as well as her belief in and support for the ratification of the ERA.


Betty Ford involved herself in the Los Angeles AIDS Project.


In 1985, Betty Ford received the Los Angeles AIDS Projects "Commitment to Life Award".


When she attended the 1992 Republican National Convention, Betty Ford wore an AIDS ribbon pin.


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


In 1993, Betty Ford was quoted as speaking against existing bans gays from serving in the military, remarking,.


In 1985, Betty Ford received the Award for Greatest Public Service Benefiting the Disadvantaged, an annual award given by the Jefferson Awards.


That same year, Betty Ford received the Golden Plate Award of the American Academy of Achievement.


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


In 1987, Betty Ford was inducted into the Michigan Women's Hall of Fame.


In 1999, she and President Betty Ford were jointly awarded Congressional Gold Medals.


On May 8,2003, Betty Ford received the Woodrow Wilson Award in Los Angeles for her public service, awarded by the Woodrow Wilson Center of the Smithsonian Institution.


President Betty Ford died, aged 93, of heart failure on December 26,2006, at their Rancho Mirage home.


Ill health prevented Betty Ford from attending the funeral of former First Lady Lady Bird Johnson's in July 2007, and her daughter Susan Betty Ford Bales instead represented her at the funeral service.


Betty Ford leans over President Betty Ford's coffin during memorial services for him held December 30,2006 in the United States Capitol rotunda as part of the his state funeral.


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


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


Betty Ford has consistently ranked among the top-nine most highly assessed first ladies in these surveys.


In both the 1993 and 2003 Siena Research Institute surveys, Betty Ford was similarly ranked the 5th-highest in historians' assessment of first ladies' courage.


Betty Ford is one of three former first ladies whose lives are the focus of the Emmy-nominated 2022 Showtime television series The First Lady, in which she is portrayed by Kristine Froseth and Michelle Pfeiffer.