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CALIFORNIA-The former First Lady, wife of the 38th President of the United States, Betty Ford passed away yesterday, Friday the eighth of July.
Betty Ford was an outspoken occupant of the White House. She spoke out about Gays, abortion, Marijuana, drug addiction, alcoholism, sex and breast cancer at a time that many of the subjects were taboo. Her bout with breast cancer and drug addiction forced the nation to come to terms with issues usually swept under the rug and forgotten. Her struggle with breast cancer caused a nation to pay attention to the subject and brought the disease out into the open where it could be treated. Tens of thousands of women sought mammograms, and screenings went up 400%.
She was considered the “Accidental First Lady.” Her husband, Gerald Ford, was the minority leader of the House when he was chosen by Nixon to replace Spiro Agnew, who resigned after pleading no contest to income tax evasion. Ford would gain the presidency when Nixon resigned amid the Watergate scandal. Ford would not win an election to gain the presidency in his own right. He would lose to Jimmy Carter. The reason for his loss it is believed, is because he pardoned Nixon prior to the elections.
Betty Ford was born Elizabeth Ann Bloomer on April 8th, 1918 in Chicago, but would move to Grand Rapids with her family shortly thereafter. She grew up to study dance and eventually became a member of the Martha Graham Concert Group. She was also a part-time model. She would meet Gerald Ford after returning to Grand Rapids to work as a Fashion Coordinator for a department store. He was her second husband, she divorced her first.
After her husband’s loss to Carter, her condition became dire. The use of prescription pills and alcohol took its toll on Betty. Finally after an intervention and treatment, Betty would become whole again. She thought that if this could happen to her, it could happen to anyone. With the help of her neighbor, Leonard Firestone, she developed the Betty Ford Clinic. It was an 80-bed facility in Rancho Mirage opened in 1982. Since that time the facility has treated over 75,000 patients including Peter Lawford, Liza Minelli, Johnny Cash, and Mary Tyler Moore.
Her unabashed candor will be missed.