R. I. P. Elizabeth Ann (Betty) Ford

Betty Ford, former First Lady of the United St...

Betty Ford, 1918-2011

Earlier this month, we lost a member of our nation-wide community who gave to us her courage, her strength and her dedication to make the world a little better.

Betty Ford, former First Lady and wife to former president Gerald Ford, was 93 when she passed away on July 7, 2011.

Betty Ford was one of the most popular First Ladies because she was relatable. News woman, Cokie Roberts, a longtime close friend, describes her as “wonderfully and truly normal”. She did not believe in being false as a means to an end. She wasn’t held up to the country as perfect. She had her struggles and challenges and she brought them to the forefront of society by publicizing them in an effort to help others avoid the same issues.

Mrs. Ford was diagnosed with breast cancer a month after taking on her role as First Lady. When asked about her illness, she said, “I’m very glad that I brought cancer to the forefront.” She drew strength from using a negative circumstance in a positive manner.

Through her courageous voice, she saved thousands of women’s lives. She encouraged women to be tested for cancer during regular doctor visits. With all the attention breast cancer receives today, it’s easy to forget that this wasn’t the case in the early 1970’s. Betty Ford made it far more comfortable for women to discuss cancer and seek much-needed treatments.

During her reign, she was outspoken about women’s rights, and she supported the equal rights amendment and the legalization of abortion. She became famous for her complete honesty.

After leaving the White House, Betty Ford publicly announced her addiction to pain killers and alcohol. She hoped her candor in talking about it would help other Americans do the same. Substance abuse awareness became her primary objective. She co-founded the Betty Ford Center in California in 1982.

She once said, “This is not a lack of willpower, this is a disease. I’m not out to rescue anybody who doesn’t want to be rescued. I just think it’s important to say how easy it is to slip into a dependency on pills or alcohol, and how hard it is to admit that dependency.

Betty Ford’s life took unexpected and unwanted turns – a term as First Lady, a monumental effort to “make the White House sing again” after the end of Nixon’s term in office, breast cancer, substance abuse – but through it all, her courage, honesty and compassion led her to be known as a woman whose legacy will live on in people around the country whose lives are longer and better because of her work.”  

According to ABC News, President Carter and his wife Rosalynn, who succeeded the Fords in the White House, recalled “a close personal friend and our frequent partner in bipartisan efforts to improve mental health and substance abuse care in our nation. She was a remarkable political spouse, whose courageous candor helped forge a new era of openness after the divisiveness of the Vietnam War and Watergate. Also, as a tireless advocate for women’s rights and social justice, she helped to improve the lives and opportunities of countless women and children.”

Thank you, Betty Ford, for the lessons you taught and the inspiration you will always be.

Was Betty Ford an inspiration to you? If so, in what way?

You know I love hearing from you and anxiously await your comments.

Jump over to The Life List Club to check out my list. The you can visit the other writers’ lists and see how they’re doing. You’ll find them listed at the right under Life List Blogroll.


10 thoughts on “R. I. P. Elizabeth Ann (Betty) Ford

  1. Pingback: Will You Look Back Without Regrets? by Marcia Richards | Jenny Hansen's Blog

  2. This was really a cool history lesson for me (and no, I’m not trying to make anyone feel old). Reagen was in office when I was born, so I didn’t know all of this about Betty Ford. I’m actually really excited to talk about her next time my mom and I chat because I know she’ll have more to tell me. Thanks for sharing some of the civil rights work she did, Marcia, as a women’s, gender, and sexuality studies minor, I’m surprised I never heard about her in college. If I’m doing the right math, she was around the same time as Gloria Steinem, right? Second wave feminism?

    • Glad this caught your eye, Jess. Yes, Gloria Steinem and Betty Ford were supporting women’s rights around the same time. I think Gloria kicked it off, though. I believe Mrs. Ford was well into the first term in the White House when she began to focus on those issues. Prior to that issue, she was fighting cancer and encouraging women to have exams. If your mom is around my age, she should remember a bit about it. I was 18 in 1970 and was still in my own little world, but I did pay attention to politics at the time.

  3. Thank you SO much, Marcia, for this post. I am politically “challenged” and didn’t start following a bit of politics until the last 10 years or so. Therefore, I knew nothing about Betty Ford. Now that I read your blog I am truly impressed with how liberal thinking she was. Wow! What a cool First Lady.
    Thank you.

    • She was the highlight of those years, Patti. President Ford never wanted to be President, but had no choice when Nixon resigned. During his term we had a horrible recession and he granted a pardon to Nixon, which was very controversial. Then he was followed by a very nice man but a terribly ineffective President Jimmy Carter.
      As an adult history is so much more interesting, isn’t it?

  4. I was in high school when Betty entered the White House. I think her courage to take a stand and speak her mind to help people especial;y woman gave me the courage to do the same…she is the model our young girls of today need to see more of…

    • Oh Donna, I totally agree. She stepped into a position she didn’t want, dealt with cancer while raising children and enduring a very busy life as well. then took on some of the most important women’s issues and battled her addictions. Faced her demons and went public only to serve the public again. What a role model! Not perfect, but accountable and admirable.

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