Betty Ford

First Lady of the United States


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 Betty Ford
Betty Ford in 1938


"My family joins me in sharing the difficult news that Gerald R. Ford, our beloved husband, father, grandfather, and great grandfather, has passed away at 93 years of age. His was a life filled with love of God, his family, and his country."--Betty Ford's statement of December 26, 2006

 Gerald and Betty Ford

Gerald and Betty Ford on their wedding day

First Lady Betty Ford



Betty Ford

Betty Ford

Elizabeth Ann "Betty" Ford - (April 8, 1918 – July 8, 2011)

 Betty Ford was the First Lady of the United States for only 30 months, but helped her husband heal a nation torn apart by war and political scandal. Betty Ford is also well known for her public ordeal as an addict and her part in the founding of the iconic Betty Ford Clinic.

Elizabeth Ann "Betty" Bloomer, was born in 1918, the daughter of William Stephenson Bloomer Sr. and Hortense Neahr. Betty Bloomer attends Central High School in Grand Rapids, MI. She began lessons in ballet, tap and modern movement and decided that she wanted to pursue a career as a dancer. She also taught dance to younger children and worked as a model at Herpolsheimer’s department store. Her father died in 1934 of monoxide gas poisoning in his garage.

After her high school graduation, Betty Bloomer attended Bennington College School of Dance in Vermont. She meets Martha Graham, choreographer and founder of the famous contemporary dance troupe. In 1939, Miss Graham offers the 20-year old Betty Bloomer an opportunity to attend the Martha Graham School and she moved to New York City. In order to earn extra money, Betty worked as a model at the John Robert Powers Agency. From 1940 to 1941, she becomes a member of the Graham auxiliary dance group and performed with the Martha Graham Dance ensemble at Carnegie Hall.

After returning home to Grand Rapids, Michigan she married William Warren, an old friend from her school days. The William and Betty Warren moved often as William Warren changds sales jobs frequently. Betty eventually returned to Grand Rapids and again accepts a job at Herpolsheimer’s department store, with a promotion to the position as the fashion coordinator. Williamn Warren, was an alcoholic, and was often in poor health and just after Betty decided to file for divorc,e he went into a coma. Betty nursed him for another two years as he recovered, and they finally divorced on September 22, 1947. This first marriange produced no children.

In August, 1947, the the soon to be divorced Betty Warren met Gerald Ford though some mutual friends, and they married on October 15, 1948. The wedding took place in the midst of Gerald Ford's first campaign for a seat in Congress. He won the election, and, as he won successive elections and gained seniority in Congress, he also gained political power.

The marriage of Gerald and Betty Ford produced four children: Michael Gerald Ford (b. 1950), John Gardner Ford (nicknamed Jack, b. 1952), Steven Meigs Ford (b. 1956), and a daughter, Susan Elizabeth Ford (b. 1957).


Ford Family

Gerald and Betty Ford and their family


 Ford's influence in Congress grew even more when his fellow Republicans selected him as their leader in 1965. Since the Democrats controlled the House by holding a majority of the seats, the Republicans were called the "minority party."As the leader of the Republicans in Congress, Ford's new position titled "House Minority Leader."

When Vice-President Spiro Agnew resigned in 1973 because of criminal allegations against him, President Richard Nixon chose Gerald Ford as the new Vice-President. After the House and Senate confirmed the choice, Ford became the first unelected (byAmerican voters) Vice-President of the U.S.

Gerald's Ford's selection as the Vice-President became of major importance when President Nixon resigned on August 9, 1974. Gerald Ford then became the first unelected (by American voters) President of the U.S. President Ford's first important decision was to grant Nixon a full presidential pardon, which prevented any legal action against the former president for crimes he may have committed while he was president.

With Gerald Ford's rise to the Presidency, Betty Ford of course became the 40th First Lady of the U.S. Betty Ford, as First Lady, quickly gained a reputation for speaking plainly, and openly on topics of concern to many families in the United States. In a1975 interview with McCall's magazine, Betty Ford said that she was often 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." After the stoic an disciplined manner of her predecessor, Pat Nixon, Betty Ford's openness and seeming normality caused her, in some senses, to be more popular than her husband the President. Soon after becoming First Lady, Betty Ford underwent a mastectomy for her breast cancer on September 28, 1974. Betty Ford's openness about her illness helped remove the public stigma of a disease that Americans had previously been reluctant to talk about openly. "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."

Betty Ford was open about the benefits of psychiatric treatment, and spoke understandingly about marijuana use and premarital sex, and, as a new First Lady, frankly stated that she and the President shared the same bed during a televised White House tour. After Ford appeared on 60 Minutes in a typically candid interview, she discussed how she would counsel her daughter if she (the daughter) were having an affair; stating that she "would not be surprised," and she spoke on the possibility that her children may have experimented with marijuana. Some political conservatives called her "No Lady" 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." Some of Ford's campaign siad, "Vote for Betty's husband."

Betty Ford was also an outspoken advocate of women's rights and was a prominent force in the Women's Movement of the 1970s. The First Lady supported the controversial Equal Rights Amendmen,t and lobbied state legislatures to ratify the proposed constitutional amendment. She was also un-apologetically pro-choice (a very controversial stance for a Republican) and her active political role prompted TIME magazine to call her the country's "Fighting First Lady" and name her "Woman of the Year," representing American women along with other well-known and influential feminists.

Gerald Ford ran for election (not, as many pointed out, for re-election) in 1976, winning the Republican nomination for President only after a bitter and hard-fought primary campaign against California Governor Ronald Reagan. Fordwas a moderate Republican, while Reagan was the leader of the party's growing conservative wing. Fordended up losing the 1976 election to Democrat Jimmy Carter, a former governor of Georia.

In 1978, the Ford family staged an intervention and forced Betty Ford to confront her alcoholism and an addiction to pills that had been prescribed in the back 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 now-famous and iconic Betty Ford Center in Rancho Mirage, California, for the treatment of chemical dependency. Betty Ford served as the chairman of the Betty Ford Center's Board of Directors until 2005, when her daughter Susan took over leadership of the Betty Ford Center.

In 1978, the entire Ford family staged an intervention and forced Betty Ford to confront her alcoholism and an addiction to pills that had been prescribed in the back 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 now-famous and iconic Betty Ford Center in Rancho Mirage, California, for the treatment of chemical dependency. Betty Ford served as the chairman of the Betty Ford Center's Board of Directors until 2005, when her daughter Susan took over leadership of the Betty Ford Center.


In January, 2006, President Ford was hospitalized with pneumonia. He left the hospital after a twelve-day stay.

President Gerald Ford passed away on Tuesday, December 26, 2006 at the age of 93. At the time of his death, he was the longest lived former president in U.S. history, surpassing the late Ronald Reagan, who also died at age 93.

Betty Ford passed away on July 8, 2011, at the age of 93.


Books by Gerald and Betty Ford:


Books about Betty Ford:

Anthony, Carl Sferrazza. First Ladies: The Saga of the Presidents' Wives and their Power, 1961-1990. New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1991.


Borrelli, Mary Anne. "Competing Conceptions of the First Ladyship: Public Responses to Betty Ford's 60 Minutes Interview." Presidential Studies Quarterly, vol. 31, no.4, 397-414, 2001


Caroli, Betty Boyd. First Ladies. New York: Oxford University Press, 1987.


Carter, Rosalyn. First Lady from Plains. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1984.


Ford, Betty. Glad Awakening. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1987. [Memoir concerning Mrs. Ford’s recovery from substance abuse and the founding of the Betty Ford Center.]


_____. Healing and Hope. New York: Putnam’s Sons, 2003. [Betty Ford weaves her own commentary around the first-person narratives of six women treated at the Betty Ford Center.]


_____. The Times of My Life. New York: Harper & Row, 1978. [Autobiography of her life concluding with her admittance to Long Beach Naval Hospital.]


Greene, John Robert. Betty Ford: Candor and Courage in the White House. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 2004.


Gutin, Myra. The President's Partner: The First Lady in the Twentieth Century. New York: Greenwood Press, 1989.


Gutin, Myra G. and Leesa E. Tobin. “‘You've Come a Long Way, Mr. President’: Betty Ford as First Lady” in Gerald R. Ford and the Politics of Post-Watergate America edited by Bernard J. Firestone, and Alexej Ugrinsky. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1993.


Knopf-Newman, Marcy Jane. Beyond Slash, Burn, and Poison: Transforming Breast Cancer Stories into Action. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2004.


Rohrer, Karen M. “’If There Was Anything You Forgot to Ask…’:The Papers of Betty Ford.” Prologue: Journal of the National Archives, vol. 19, no. 2, 143-153, 1987.


Rosebush, James. First Lady, Public Wife. Lanham, MD: Madison Books, 1987.


Tobin, Leesa. “Betty Ford as First Lady: A Woman for Women.” Presidential Studies Quarterly, vol. 20, no. 4, 761-767, 1990.

Troy, Gil. Affairs of State: The Rise and Rejection of the Presidential Couple Since World War II. New York: The Free Press, 1997.


Weidenfeld, Sheila Rabb. First Lady's Lady: With the Fords at the White House. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1979.



Quotes by President Ford (source: http://www.ford.utexas.edu/grf/quotes.asp):





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Family, Career, and Personal Highlights

William Stephenson Bloomer Sr (1874-1934)--Father

Hortense Neahr (1884-1948) -- Mother

William G. Warren (m. 1942–divorced in 1947)


Gerald Ford (1913-2006), 2nd Husband, wed on October 15, 1948


Michael Gerald Ford (b. 1950)--Son

John Gardner "Jack" Ford (b. 1952)--Son

Steven Meigs Ford (b. 1956)--Son

Susan Elizabeth Ford (b. 1957)--Daughter




Class of 1936: Central High School (Mich.)

1936-1937-attended Bennington School of Dance in Bennington, Vermont


1940-1942: Attorney/University instructor
--taught a business law course at the University of Grand Rapids. Ford also coached at the University. (See below)


Links and Resources on Gerald and Betty Ford

Gerald R. Ford--Biography of Gerald R. Ford. From the official White House web site.

Gerald Ford--Wikipedia article

Betty Ford--Wikipedia article

The Conflicts Dealt With by Gerald Ford, 1974-1977 --Analysis of Ford's decisions on the Mayaguez and Angola conflicts.

Gerald R. Ford Library and Museum --Promotes popular interest and scholarly research in U.S. history during the post-World War II era, especially the Ford presidency (1974-77).

President Gerald Ford: Health & Medical History--Medical history of President Gerald R. Ford

American President.Org: Gerald Ford--Website run by the University of Virginia.

Character Above All: Gerald Ford Essay --Excerpt from an essay about the troubled childhood and political career of Gerald Ford, who became the 38th President of the United States. By James Cannon.

Former President Ford Dead at 93--AP/Yahoo News.

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The Conflicts Dealt With by Gerald Ford, 1974-1977

Analysis of Ford's decisions on the Mayaguez and Angola conflicts.

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