By Bonnie K. Goodman
Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.
The Fords embrace in the Oval Office, December, 6, 1974.
(Photo: Gerald R. Ford Library)
FORMER FIRST LADY BETTY FORD: 1918-2011
Betty Ford dies at the age of 93: Betty Ford, 93, a self-proclaimed “ordinary” woman who never cared for political life but made a liberating adventure out of her 30 months as first lady, died Friday.
- Former first lady Betty Ford dies at 93: Betty Ford, wife of former President Gerald Ford and the founder of the Betty Ford Center for substance abuse and addiction, has died at age 93…. – WaPo, 7-8-11
- Betty Ford: A free spirit who became an inspiration to millions: Former first lady Betty Ford’s triumph over drug and alcohol addiction became a beacon of hope for addicts and the inspiration for her Betty Ford Center in California. Mrs. Ford passed on Friday…. – CS Monitor, 7-9-11
- Former first lady Betty Ford dies at 93: Betty Ford, the former first lady whose triumph over drug and alcohol addiction became a beacon of hope for addicts and the inspiration for her Betty Ford Center in California, died at age 93, a family friend said late Friday.
Her death Friday was confirmed to The Associated Press by Marty Allen, chairman emeritus of the Ford Foundation. Family spokeswoman Barbara Lewandrowski said later that the former first lady died at the Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage. Other details of her death were not immediately available. Ford’s husband, Gerald, died in December 2006.
Betty Ford had undergone surgery for an undisclosed ailment in April 2007. During and after her years in the White House, 1974 to 1977, Mrs. Ford won acclaim for her candor, wit and courage as she fought breast cancer, severe arthritis and the twin addictions of drugs and alcohol. She also pressed for abortion rights and women’s rights…. – AP, 7-9-11
- Betty Ford 1918-2011 Betty Ford, Former First Lady, Dies at 93: Betty Ford, the outspoken and much-admired wife of President Gerald R. Ford who overcame alcoholism and an addiction to pills and helped found one of the best-known rehabilitation centers in the nation, died Friday in Palm Springs, Calif. She was 93. Her death was confirmed by Chris Chase, Mrs. Ford’s biographer.
The news of her death at Eisenhower Medical Center brought statements of condolence from President Obama, former Presidents George Bush, George W. Bush and Jimmy Carter, and Nancy Reagan, the former first lady.
Few first ladies have been as popular as Betty Ford, and it was her frankness and lack of pretense that made her so. She spoke often in support of the Equal Rights Amendment, endorsed legalized abortion, discussed premarital sex and revealed that she intended to share a bed with her husband in the White House.
When her husband’s voice failed him the morning after he was defeated by Jimmy Carter in 1976, it was she who read the official concession statement with smiling grace. And when Mr. Ford died in December 2006, it was Mrs. Ford who announced his death. The six days of national mourning returned her to a spotlight she had tried to avoid in her later years, living in Rancho Mirage, Calif., a golf community southeast of Palm Springs, and tending to her clinic there, the Betty Ford Center…. – NYT, 7-9-11
- Snyder: Betty Ford was “outstanding Michigander”: Gov. Rick Snyder says the state is mourning the loss of former first lady Betty Ford, a woman he calls an “extraordinary woman” and an “outstanding Michigander.” In a statement Friday, Snyder said Ford was “a shining example of how one person can truly make a difference.” The governor says he and his wife, Sue, extend their sympathies to the Ford family.
Ford family spokeswoman Barbara Lewandrowski says Ford’s body will be sent to Michigan from California for burial alongside former President Gerald Ford, who is buried at his namesake library in Grand Rapids…. – AP, 7-9-11
- Private memorial for Betty Ford will be Tuesday in Palm Desert: Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter will be among those delivering eulogies for the wife of the nation’s 38th president.
A private memorial for former First Lady Betty Ford will be held in Palm Desert on Tuesday, with a eulogy to be delivered by former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, before her remains are flown to Michigan and laid to rest beside her husband, a family representative said Saturday.
Ford, 93, died of natural causes Friday afternoon, surrounded by family members at Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage. She had been hospitalized with a brief illness but, contrary to some news reports, did not suffer a stroke, said Greg Willard, the Fords’ longtime attorney.
“I wanted to express the gratitude and thanks of the Ford family for the magnificent outpouring of sympathy that they have received literally from around the world. It’s been, quite frankly, heartwarming beyond measure,” Willard said during an afternoon news conference…. – LAT, 7-9-11
QUOTES BY BETTY FORD
(On hearing her husband take the oath of office in August 1974): “The words cut through me, pinned me to the floor. I felt as though I were taking the oath with him, promising to dedicate my own life to the service of my country.
“I was the wife of the President of the United States.”
“What an astonishing place for Elizabeth Ann Bloomer to have come to.”
(On meeting Ford): Fall 1947: “Once I’d said marriage was the last thing on my mind, and he’d made it clear it was no part of his program either, we could relax, have a good time, go to all the football games. He wanted a companion, and I filled the bill. As for me, I liked handsome blond men, I found him physically attractive; I enjoyed his company and his friends.”
November 1948: “When he first told me he was going to run for Congress, I didn’t know what running for Congress meant. I was very unprepared to be a political wife, but I didn’t worry because I really didn’t think he was going to win. At that time, only old men went to Congress.”
(On children and motherhood): “I was always there at three-thirty when the older ones came home from school and in the days when we still had infants, I was a pretty average mother. If I had a quiet hour, I dived into a historical novel. … I was a den mother. I was a Sunday-school teacher. I was an interior decorator and a peacemaker and a zoo keeper. We raised every kind of an animal in the world.”
(On Ford’s Vice Presidency): Dec. 6, 1973: “Before he got this new job, I’d been planning to work at a hospital three days a week, because I needed to feel I was doing something for someone else. … Suddenly I had more projects than I could handle.”
(On Ford becoming president): “I had such belief in my husband. I never doubted he could do it. … But I wasn’t sure what kind of First Lady I would be. There was a great deal of whooping and hollering right at the beginning because I’d said Jerry and I were not going to have separate bedrooms at the White House, and that we were going to take our own bed with us. … Even now, after all those years of married life, I like the idea of sleeping with my husband next to me.”
“I figured, OK, I’ll move to the White House, do the best I can and if they don’t like it, they can kick me out, but they can’t make me somebody I’m not.”
“I think it wasn’t so much that the White House altered me in any essential way as that I found the resources with which to respond to a series of challenges. You never know what you can do until you have to do it. In the beginning, it was like going to a party you’re terrified of, and finding out to your amazement that you’re having a good time.”
(On getting breast cancer): “…I never felt hopelessly mutilated. After all, Jerry and I had been married a good many years and our love had proved itself. I had no reason to doubt my husband. If he’d lost a leg, I wouldn’t have deserted him, and I knew he wouldn’t desert me because I was unfortunate enough to have had a mastectomy. Neither of us can walk away from the other.”
“Lying in the hospital, thinking of all those women going for cancer checkups because of me, I’d come to recognize more clearly the power of the woman in the White House. Not my power, but the power of the position, a power which could be used to help.”
(On equal rights): “A housewife deserves to be honored as much as a woman who earns her living in the marketplace. I consider bringing up children a responsible job. In fact, being a good housewife seems to me a much tougher job than going to the office and getting paid for it. What man could afford to pay for all the things a wife does, when she’s a cook, a mistress, a chauffeur, a nurse, a baby-sitter? But because of this, I feel women ought to have equal rights, equal Social Security, equal opportunities for education, an equal chance to establish credit.”
(On campaigning in 1976): “I hadn’t wanted Jerry to be president, but I had long since accepted his decision to run. You plan your life one way, it goes another. When the time came, I felt he would be the best man for the job, and I was willing to take on four more years in the White House.”
“I had never expected to go out and campaign for my husband for president of the United States… At first I was petrified to get up and speak, particularly without a prepared text. In the beginning, I used to feel sick. After a while, I became so involved I stopped thinking about my stomach and carried on like the rest of the troops.”
(On her 1978 hospital stay for substance abuse): “For 14 years, I’d been on medication for the pinched nerve, the arthritis, the muscle spasms in my neck, and I’d lost my tolerance for pills. If I had a single drink, the alcohol, on top of the pills, would make me groggy.”
“I entered Long Beach to rid myself of dependence on drugs. Even now, I think staying off medication will be harder for me than staying off liquor because I have pain which comes often. For the present, I seem to be dealing with it. It’s mind over matter a lot.”
QUOTES — ON BETTY FORD’S PASSING
- Susan Ford Bales, Steven Meigs Ford, John Gardner Ford and Michael Gerald Ford: “It is with great sadness that we inform you that our beloved mother Betty Ford has passed away at 93 years of age. She died peacefully today at Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage, California.
Mother’s love, candor, devotion, and laughter enriched our lives and the lives of the millions she touched throughout this great nation. To be in her presence was to know the warmth of a truly great lady.
Mother’s passing leaves a deep void, but it also fills us with immeasurable appreciation for the life we and Dad shared with her.”
- “Throughout her long and active life, Elizabeth Anne Ford distinguished herself through her courage and compassion. As our nation’s First Lady, she was a powerful advocate for women’s health and women’s rights. After leaving the White House, Mrs. Ford helped reduce the social stigma surrounding addiction and inspired thousands to seek much-needed treatment. While her death is a cause for sadness, we know that organizations such as the Betty Ford Center will honor her legacy by giving countless Americans a new lease on life.” — President Barack Obama
- “Laura and I are deeply saddened by the passing of Betty Ford. We admired her as a First Lady and valued her as a friend. She made countless contributions to our country, and we especially appreciate her courage in calling attention to breast cancer and substance abuse. Because of her leadership, many lives were saved. Tonight our prayers go out to Mrs. Ford’s entire family.” — Former President George W. Bush
- “Barbara and I loved Betty Ford very much. She was a wonderful wife and mother; a great friend; and a courageous First Lady. No one confronted life’s struggles with more fortitude or honesty, and as a result, we all learned from the challenges she faced. The Betty Ford Center, which already has helped change the lives of thousands of people, will be her lasting legacy of care and concern. We were proud to know her. We were proud to call her a friend. We will miss her very much.” — Former President George H. W. Bush
- “Rosalynn and I are saddened by the passing of Betty Ford, 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. We extend our deepest sympathy to her family at this difficult time.” — Former President Jimmy Carter and former First Lady Rosalyn Carter
- “We are deeply saddened by the passing of First Lady Betty Ford. As a staunch advocate for women’s and equal rights, Betty paved the way for generations of women to follow. Her courage, compassion, and commitment to helping our nation deal with drug and alcohol abuse and addiction helped thousands of people to a successful recovery and in the process she helped to save countless families. …. Betty was a remarkable woman whose legacy will live on in people around the country whose lives are longer and better because of her work. Our thoughts and prayers are with her children and grandchildren. We are grateful for her contributions, and for her kindness to us. We will miss her.” — Former President Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Hilary Rodham Clinton
- “I was deeply saddened this afternoon when I heard of Betty Ford’s death. She has been an inspiration to so many through her efforts to educate women about breast cancer and her wonderful work at the Betty Ford Center. She was Jerry Ford’s strength through some very difficult days in our country’s history, and I admired her courage in facing and sharing her personal struggles with all of us. My love and deepest sympathy go out to the entire Ford family at this very sad time.” — Former First Lady Nancy Reagan
- “It is with deep sadness that Jill and I learned of the loss of Betty Ford. Throughout her life, Betty displayed strength, courage and determination that provided hope for millions of Americans seeking a healthier, happier future. Her legacy and work will live on through the millions of lives she has touched and the many more who will continue to look to her for inspiration. Her family will remain in our thoughts and prayers in the coming days.” — Vice President Joe Biden
- “Mrs. Ford was a courageous pioneer, a groundbreaking First Lady, and a forceful advocate for anyone suffering from addiction or breast cancer. America fought her struggles with her and learned alongside her. She was brave, outspoken and kind. As a journalist, I had the opportunity to interview her several times and she was just fascinating. She was a wonderful woman who stood up for any human being struggling in the shadows of their personal pain. One of my highlights as First Lady of California was to honor her with a Minerva Award in 2005. My heart goes out to her entire family. Her daughter Susan is a dear friend of mine and continues to carry on Mrs. Ford’s work in such a powerful way.” — Former California First Lady Maria Shriver
- “Betty Ford was a marvelous example of courage, faith and leadership as First Lady, and as a wife and mother. Our nation and state mourn her passing and we extend our hearts and prayers to the Ford family.” – Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette
- “Betty Ford was an outstanding Michigander and a shining example of how one person can truly make a difference. Her groundbreaking work in breast cancer awareness and treatment as well as her pioneering efforts to help those struggling with addiction changed the lives of millions of people for the better. She was a role model for us all as she lived her life with grace and dignity. While Michigan mourns the loss of this extraordinary woman, we are thankful for her years of dedication to our state and its people.
Sue and I extend our deepest sympathies to the Ford family, in particular children Michael, John, Steven and Susan.” – Gov. Rick Snyder
- “Betty Ford was a woman of incredible grace and courage. She served our nation in so many ways — as a partner to her husband as he steered the ship of state through turbulent times; as a powerful voice for breast cancer victims; as an advocate for women’s rights; and as someone who as been as responsible as anyone for our society’s awareness of substance abuse and improvements in its treatment. She spent a lifetime breaking down barriers for millions to follow. Barbara and I join Michigan and the nation in mourning her loss.” – U.S. Sen. Carl Levin
“Jock and I are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Betty Ford, the former First Lady of the United States and a longtime champion of women’s rights. Betty and her husband, the late President Gerald Ford, represented a voice for civility, consensus-building, and integrity at a most challenging time for our nation. She had a profound impact on our country that will last for generations. She helped to raise awareness about women’s health issues and made great contributions to our society. Our thoughts and prayers are with the entire Ford family during this difficult time.” – U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe