A Celebration of Women
has been inspired through this day of loss to open our hearts and Celebrate the Life of yet another woman responsible for great growth in the woman’s movement. Through her efforts, many issues in a woman’s life course were brought to the forfront of America; and the world. Through her own personal suffering, the open views on women’s addiction were brought to that attention of the world, and her generosity opened a world reknown rehabilitation center.
Please Celebrate the Life of this powerhouse of humanity, in all ways.
This woman was a WOMAN in all RIGHTS, leading the way for all WOMEN to Take Action.
WOMAN of ACTION
She was born Elizabeth Ann Bloomer in Chicago, Illinois, the third child and only daughter of William Stephenson Bloomer Sr. (July 19, 1874 – July 18, 1934), a traveling salesman for Royal Rubber Co., and his wife, Hortense (née Neahr; July 11, 1884 – November 20, 1948). Her two older brothers were Robert and William Jr. After living briefly in Denver, Colorado, she grew up in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where she graduated from Central High School.
After the 1929 stock market crash, when Ford was age 14, she began modeling clothes and teaching children dances such as the foxtrot, waltz, and big apple. She also entertained and 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.
When Ford was age 16, her father died of carbon monoxide poisoning in the family’s garage while working under their car, despite the garage doors being open;he died the day before his 60th birthday.
In 1936, after she graduated from high school, she proposed continuing her study of dance in New York City, New York, but her mother refused. Instead, she 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, Ford moved to New York City to live in its Manhattan borough’s Chelsea neighborhood and 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.
Her mother opposed her daughter’s choice of a career and insisted that she move home, but Ford resisted. They finally came to a compromise: she would return home for six months, and if she still wanted to return to New York City at the end of the six months, her mother would not protest further. Ford became immersed in her life in Grand Rapids and did not return to New York City. Her mother remarried to family friend and neighbor, Arthur Meigs Goodwin, and Ford lived with them. She got a job as assistant to the fashion coordinator for Herpolsheimer’s, a local department store, as well as organizing her own dance group and taught dance at various sites in Grand Rapids.
Former First Lady Betty Ford and her first husband, William C. Warren, lived in this house at 622 River Rd. in Maumee in the 1940s.
In 1942, she married William C. Warren, who worked for his father in insurance sales, and whom she had known since she was 12. Warren began selling insurance for another company shortly after, later he worked for Continental Can Co., and after that Widdicomb Furniture, and the couple moved frequently because of his work. At one point, they lived in Toledo, Ohio, where she 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, and once back in Grand Rapids returned to work at Herpolsheimer’s, this time as “The” Fashion Coordinator.
Warren was an alcoholic, and in poor health. Just after Betty decided to file for divorce, he went into a coma. She took care of him for another two years as he convalesced, and they were finally divorced on September 22, 1947, on the grounds of “excessive, repeated cruelty“. They had no children.
On October 15, 1948, she married Gerald R. Ford Jr., a lawyer and World War II veteran, at Grace Episcopal Church, in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Gerald Ford was then campaigning for what would be his first of 13 terms as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, and the wedding was delayed until shortly before the elections 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.”
Married for 58 years until Gerald’s death, the couple had three sons: Michael Gerald Ford (born 1950), John Gardner Ford (nicknamed Jack; born 1952), Steven Meigs Ford (born 1956), and a daughter, Susan Elizabeth Ford (born 1957). Betty never spanked or hit her children in any way, believing that there were better more constructive ways to deal with discipline punishment. (Source: Hollywood Squares Question)
The Fords moved to the Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C., and lived there for 25 years. Gerald Ford rose to become the highest-ranking Republican in the House, then was appointed Vice President to Richard Nixon when Spiro Agnew resigned from that position in 1973. He became president in 1974, upon Nixon’s resignation in the wake of the Watergate scandal.
Betty and Gerald Ford were among the more openly affectionate First Couples in American history. Neither was shy about their mutual love and equal respect, and they were known to have a strong personal and political partnership.
National power, influence, and candor
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. When compared to her predecessor, Pat Nixon, who was noted by one reporter to be the “most disciplined, composed first lady in history”, reporters questioned what kind of first lady Ford would be. In the opinion of The New York Times and several presidential historians, “Mrs. Ford’s impact on American culture may be far wider and more lasting than that of her husband, who served a mere 896 days, much of it spent trying to restore the dignity of the office of the president.”
The paper went on to describe her as “a product and symbol of the cultural and political times—doing the Bump along the corridors of the White House, donning a mood ring, chatting on her CB radio with the handle First Mama—a housewife who argued passionately for equal rights for women, a mother of four who mused about drugs, abortion and premarital sex aloud and without regret.” In 1975, in an interview with McCall’s magazine, Ford said that she was 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.”
She was open about the benefits of psychiatric treatment, and spoke understandingly about marijuana use and premarital sex, and as a new First Lady pointedly stated that she and the President shared the same bed during a televised White House tour. After Ford appeared on 60 Minutes in a characteristically candid interview in which she discussed how she would counsel her daughter if she was having an affair, saying that she “would not be surprised,” and the possibility that her children may have experimented with marijuana. Some conservatives called her “No Lady” and even demanded her “resignation”, but her overall approval rating was at seventy-five percent. As she later said, during her husband’s failed 1976 presidential campaign, “I would give my life to have Jerry have my poll numbers.”
The Betty Ford Center.
In 1978, the Ford family staged an intervention and forced her to confront her alcoholism and an addiction to opioid analgesics that had been prescribed 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 Betty Ford Center (initially called the Betty Ford Clinic) in Rancho Mirago, California, for the treatment of chemical dependency. She co-authored with Chris Chase a 1987 book about her treatment, Betty: A Glad Awakening. In 2003, Ford produced another book, Healing and Hope: Six Women from the Betty Ford Center Share Their Powerful Journeys of Addiction and Recovery.
In 2005, Ford relinquished her chairmanship of the center’s board of directors to her daughter, Susan. She had held the top post at the center since its founding. Gerald Ford goodnaturedly joked about how Betty had been Chairman of the Board while he had only been a President.
Ford continued to be an active leader and activist of the feminist movement after the Ford administration, and continued to strongly advocate and lobby politicians and state legislatures for passage of the Equal Rights Amendment. 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 was an outspoken supporter of equal pay, breast cancer awareness, and the ERA throughout her life.
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 marching 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.
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 and visited states, including Illinois, where ratification was believed to have the most realistic chance of passing. In 2004, she reaffirmed her pro-choice stance and her support for the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade and reaffirmed her belief in and support for the ratification of the ERA.
Betty Ford, the warm and candid wife of former President Gerald Ford, died on Friday in Palm Springs. She was 93.Even when she was First Lady, Betty Ford spoke her mind. She spoke publicly about her struggle with breast cancer and subsequent mastectomy, supporting the Equal Rights Amendment, and differed with her husband on the subject of abortion, saying that having babies should be a “blessing, not a duty.”
After she left the White House, her openness about her dependency on pills and alcohol changed the national discourse on addiction. She was a visible Republican feminist who once famously declared, “I do not believe that being First Lady should prevent me from expressing my views.”Reading her obituaries, it’s hard not to admire Ford’s spirit and bravery.
Born in 1917, she began her career as a dancer, and trained briefly with Martha Graham before returning home at her mother’s behest. After a brief, unsuccessful marriage, she married Gerald Ford (she was 30; he, 35), who was elected to Congress two months later. She was open, however, about the difficulties in following her husband’s career. By 1962, 12 years after her marriage, she was seeing a psychiatrist because she had “lost [her] feeling of self-worth.”
“I think a lot of women go through this,” she said later. “Their husbands have fascinating jobs, their children start to turn into independent people and the women begin to feel useless, empty.”
Ford, however, managed to fascinate the American people during and after her White House years. At a time when no one discussed cancer in public, she helped destigmatize the disease by talking openly about her breast cancer surgery. Many women said, later, that they sought out cancer examinations as a result of Ford’s honesty, and it’s easy to see why. When asked if she missed the breast, she said:
“No! Oh, no — heavens, no. I’ve heard women say they’d rather lose their right arm, and I can’t imagine it. It’s so stupid. I can even wear my evening clothes.” She told women who needed a mastectomy “go as quickly as possible and get it done.”
She discussed premarital sex (even saying that she suspected that her 18-year-old daughter, Susan, had probably had sex – a claim which Susan embarrassedly denied) and said frankly that she would indeed be sharing a bed with her husband in the White House. During the contested battle for the Equal Rights Amendment, she worked closely with the National Organization for Women to win ratification of the amendment in its final stages. And she continued defending Roe v. Wade and the ERA well into the 1980′s, even as the Republican party began to change dramatically.
As a recent college grad (who considers herself fairly well-versed in American feminist history), I never knew what an inspirational women’s rights advocate Betty Ford was. I did know about her commitment to helping people seek help for their problems with drugs, although I had no idea that even this issue was so intimately connected, at least for Ford, with feminism. Ford said that her drinking began because of her loneliness, low self-esteem, and anxiety about lack of a college education.
“On one hand, I loved being ‘the wife of’; on the other hand, I was convinced that the more important Jerry became, the less important I became,” she later wrote. This was despite the fact that she was enormously popular; there were 1976 campaign buttons which read, “Betty’s husband for president.”
Finally confronted by her family about her use of alcohol and pills, she eventually entered treatment, and inspired the Betty Ford Center. ”There is joy in recovery,” she wrote, “and in helping others discover that joy.”
There has been a lot of writing over the past few years about what conservative feminism looks like (if it exists at all), and it’s surprising that Betty Ford hasn’t been brought up more often. In some sense, it shows just how far right the GOP has moved since the 1970′s, when it “Republican feminist” (or “socially liberal Republican”) didn’t seem like such an oxymoron. It’s good, though, to remember Betty Ford’s significant contributions to American public discourse, to celebrate her long life, and to admire her personal and ideological convictions at a time when it was even more difficult, as a woman in the public eye, to speak out candidly about what she believed.
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BETTY FORD – WOMAN of ACTION *Tribute
May 13, 2012 by 2 Comments