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Elizabeth Bloomer Warren Ford

Elizabeth (Betty) Anne Bloomer was born in Chicago, Illinois on April 8, 1918.
Betty grew up in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

She took ballet lessons as a young girl and dreamed of being a professional dancer. In high school, she studied dance at the Calla Travis Dance Studio and the Martha Graham Dance Company.

Betty's father died when she was sixteen. Betty helped out the family by earning money as a model and teaching dance.

She went to the Bennington School of Dance in Vermont and later studied with dancer Martha Graham. She spent two years as a professional dancer in New York.

Betty also did some modeling.

She then returned to Grand Rapids and taught modern dance and used dance as therapy with handicapped children.

In 1942, she married Bill Warren. They were divorced five years later in 1947.

Later that year she met Gerald Ford a former University of Michigan football player. Jerry was a lawyer in Grand Rapids.

In less than a year they were married on October 15, 1948 and she started working on his first campaign for Congress. Ford was running for Congress and campaigned on his wedding day.

Betty Ford
Library of Congress

They moved to Washington D.C. after his election.

They had four children, Michael, John, Steven, and Susan.

Their daughter, Susan, held her senior prom at the White House.

Steven was an actor and appeared on the soap opera The Young and the Restless.

She was in constant pain from arthritis and a pinched nerve. She became dependent on pain-killing drugs.

Shortly after Nixon appointed Ford as his Vice President, the Watergate Scandal forced President Nixon to resign.

Betty Ford held the Bible when her husband was sworn in as President of the United States.

She supported the Equal Rights Amendment and urged her husband to appoint women to his cabinet.

Betty upset consevatives when she appeared on the television show 60 Minutes. She said she wouldn't be surprized if her children had tried marijuana. Betty also said that it would be "perfectly normal" if her daughter had a premarital affair. Mrs. Ford also said that the Roe vs Wade decision was a "great, great decision."

Betty talked openly of her fight with breast cancer and her mastectomy. This encouraged many women in their struggle with breast cancer.

She campaigned hard for her husband's re-election. Some supporters wore buttons that read: Betty's Husband for President."

Betty was depressed when Jerry lost the election and became dependent on painkillers, tranquilizers and alcohol.

After she recovered she spoke openly about her addiction and urged others to get treatment. She help found the Betty Ford Center for Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitation.

She was awarded the Presidential Medal for Freedom by George H. Bush for her work on drug rehabilitation.

In 1987, she published a book about her experiences, Betty: A Glad Awakening.

Her husband President Gerald Ford died on December 26, 2006.

 

 

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Sources of Information:

Books:
Barden, Cindy,Meet the First Ladies, Lorenz Corp.
Gormley, Beatrice,First Ladies: Women Who Called The White House Home (First Ladies) , Scholastic Paperbacks, 1997
Smith, Carter, Editor,Smithsonian Presidents and First Ladies DK Publishing, New York, 2002

Web Sites:
The White House: http://www.whitehouse.gov/history/firstladies/
Portraits of the Presidents and First Ladies: http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/odmdhtml/