Heroine of the Day - Betty Ford

Betty was an alcoholic and hooked on prescription drugs when her family staged an intervention. She was in denial and is quoted as saying "My makeup wasn't smeared, I wasn't disheveled, I behaved politely, and I never finished off a bottle, so how could I be alcoholic?" Once she became honest with herself she became known for her open and honest manner in dealing with her substance abuse and recovery. This led to an improvement in how Americans talked about addictions and alcoholism. Betty dedicated her life to helping others and opened the Betty Ford Center which models its programs on the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. As a result she has helped thousands recover. In 1983 Betty wrote "A Glad Awakening" telling her story. In 2003 Betty published "Healing and Hope... Journeys of Addiction and Recovery". This first lady walks the walk.

Elizabeth Ann "Betty" Ford (née Bloomer; April 8, 1918 – July 8, 2011) was First Lady of the United States from 1974 to 1977, as the wife of the 38th President of the United States, Gerald Ford. As First Lady, she was active in social policy and created precedents as a politically active presidential wife.

Throughout her husband's term in office, she maintained high approval ratings despite opposition from some conservative Republicans who objected to her more moderate and liberal positions on social issues. Ford was noted for raising breast cancer awareness following her 1974 mastectomy. In addition, she was a passionate supporter of, and activist for, the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). Pro-choice on abortion and a leader in the Women's Movement, she gained fame as one of the most candid first ladies in history, commenting on every hot-button issue of the time, including feminism, equal pay, the ERA, sex, drugs, abortion, and gun control. She also raised awareness of addiction when in the 1970s, she announced her long-running battle with alcoholism.

Following her White House years, she continued to lobby for the ERA and remained active in the feminist movement. She was the founder, and served as the first chair of the board of directors, of the Betty Ford Center for substance abuse and addiction. She was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal (co-presentation with her husband, Gerald R. Ford, October 21, 1998) and the Presidential Medal of Freedom (presented 1991 by George H. W. Bush).

During her time as First Lady, Ford was an outspoken advocate of women's rights and was a prominent force in the Women's Movement of the 1970s. She supported the proposed ERA and lobbied state legislatures to ratify the amendment, and took on opponents of the amendment. She was also un-apologetically pro-choice. Her active political role prompted Time to call her the country's "Fighting First Lady" and name her a Woman of the Year in 1975, as representing American women, along with other feminist icons.
For a time, it was unclear whether Gerald Ford shared his wife's pro-choice viewpoint. In December 1999, he told interviewer Larry King that he, too, was pro-choice and had been criticized for that stance by conservative forces within the Republican Party.

National Power, Influence, and Candor

Reporters wondered what kind of first lady Ford would be, as they thought her predecessor, Pat Nixon, as noted by one reporter, to be the "most disciplined, composed first lady in history." 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."
Steinhauer of the New York Times described Ford as "a product and symbol of the cultural and political times — doing the Bump dance 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, 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. The new First Lady noted during a televised White House tour that she and the President shared the same bed. Ford was a guest on 60 Minutes and, in a characteristically candid interview, she discussed how she would counsel her daughter if she was having an affair. She said she "would not be surprised" by that, and also acknowledged that her children may have experimented with marijuana, which was popular among the young. Some conservatives called her "No Lady" for her comments and demanded her "resignation", but her overall approval rating was at a high 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."

Health and breast cancer awareness

Weeks after Ford became First Lady, she underwent a mastectomy for breast cancer on September 28, 1974, after having been diagnosed with the disease. Ford decided to be open about her illness because "There had been so much cover-up during Watergate that we wanted to be sure there would be no cover-up in the Ford administration." Her openness about her cancer and treatment raised the visibility of a disease that Americans had previously been reluctant to talk about.
"When other women have this same operation, it doesn't make any headlines," she told Time. "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."
Adding to heighten public awareness of breast cancer were reports that several weeks after Ford's cancer surgery, Happy Rockefeller, the wife of vice president Nelson Rockefeller, also had a mastectomy. The spike in women self-examining after Ford went public with the diagnosis led to an increase in reported cases of breast cancer, a phenomenon known as the "Betty Ford blip".

Wikipedia: Betty Ford

Quotes

• The search for human freedom can never be complete without freedom for women.

• I was an ordinary woman who was called onstage at an extraordinary time. I was no different once I became first lady than I had been before. But, through an accident of history, I had become interesting to people.

• You never know what you can do until you have to do it.

• I've learned a lot about myself. Most of it is all right. When I add up the pluses and subtract the minuses, I still come out pretty well.

• We were in a position where my husband had been sworn into office during a very, very difficult time. There had been so much cover-up during Watergate that we wanted to be sure there would be no cover-up in the Ford Administration. So rather than continue this traditional silence about breast cancer, we felt we had to be public.

• My makeup wasn't smeared, I wasn't disheveled, I behaved politely, and I never finished off a bottle, so how could I be alcoholic?

• Captain Pursch ... gave me the book Alcoholics Anonymous, and told me to read it, substituting the words 'chemically dependent' for 'alcoholic.'

• It's always been my feeling that God lends you your children until they're about eighteen years old. If you haven't made your points with them by then, it's too late.

• Not my power, but the power of the position, a power which could be used to help.

• [Martha Graham] shaped my whole life. She gave me the ability to stand up to all the things I had to go through, with much more courage than I would have had without her.

• [About becoming First Lady at Nixon's resignation] I figured, okay, 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 be somebody I'm not.

• [About her husband's appointment as Vice President in 1973] If I had known what was coming, I think I would have sat right down and cried.

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