Guest Author - Linda Sue Grimes
The Betty Ford Center was founded in 1982 and has helped many individuals with alcohol and drug dependencies, including celebrities such as Elizabeth Taylor, Kelsey Grammer, and Tony Curtis.
Betty Ford was born Elizabeth Anne Bloomer in Chicago on April 18, 1918, to William Stephenson Bloomer and Hortense Neahr Bloomer. She has two older brothers. The family moved to Grand Rapids, where Betty was raised. She became very interested in dance, taking lessons when she was eight years old. She said that dance was her “happiness.”
Later she studied dance at Bennington College in Vermont. After choosing to make dance a career, she joined the Martha Graham’s group in New York City. She also supported herself as a model with the John Robert Powers agency.
Betty relocated back to her home city of Grand Rapids, where she took a job as fashion coordinator for a department store and also started a dance group and taught dance to handicapped children.
In the spring of 1942 at age 24, Betty married William Warren. The marriage lasted only five years and they divorced in 1947 because of incompatibility. Her parents had objected to marriage from the beginning.
She met Gerald Rudolph Ford, a University of Michigan and Yale Law School graduate. The two soon fell in love; he proposed in February 1948, and they married in October. Ford was running for congress, so they planned the wedding to take place just before the fall election.
Of course, Ford won the 1948 election and every one from 1948 through 1972. The Fords lived the next three decades in Washington, D.C. Betty gave birth to their four children—Michael, Jack, Steven, and Susan— during the first ten years of their marriage.
Betty shouldered much responsibility as her husband’s political career demanded. In addition to raising her children and supervising their home, she participated in “House wives” and “Senate wives” activities. She also took an active lead in campaigning for her husband.
Betty Ford became First Lady August 9, 1974, and served in that position until January 20, 1977. During her stint as first lady, she suffered from breast cancer as well as from alcoholism and drug dependency. From her experiences, which she so generously shared, came a new awareness of the efficacy of early detection for breast cancer.
And, of course, her foresight motivated her founding of the famous Betty Ford Center that has given so many people back their dignity after suffering the ravages of drug and alcohol dependency. Every first lady brings a special quality to that position, and Betty Ford’s courage and stamina will secure hers as one the most outstanding legacies of all.