Despite the last name, Betty Ford was no relation to President Ford. She was born Elizabeth Anne Bloomer in 1918, and got married at 18 to her high school sweetheart William Warren Beattie Jr., who was killed during World War II in 1944. The following year, she married Gerald R. Ford, and from that moment on, her life changed dramatically. She became First Lady at age 49, and as such, she presided over White House functions and entertained heads of state—and the public—in a way that had never been done before by the wife of an American president. Betty Ford First Year as First Lady

Betty Ford’s Early Life

Betty Bloomer, who would later be known by her married name of Betty Ford, was born on April 8, 1918 in Chicago, Illinois. Her parents were William and Geraldine Bloomer. Betty Ford First Year as First Lady

Political Involvement

As first lady, Betty Ford was active in social policy and became a highly visible spokesperson for a number of causes including breast cancer awareness, abortion rights, and women’s health issues. Her progressive views on these issues generated significant public controversy. For example, when President Gerald R. Ford signed into law an anti-abortion bill that became known as the Hyde Amendment, his wife told reporters that she disagreed with him—the first time she’d contradicted her husband in public.

She Becomes First Lady

On August 9, 1974, Betty Ford became First Lady of the United States. Shortly after her husband assumed office on August 9, 1974, Betty and Gerald announced that she would be retaining her name following marriage. She is generally known as Betty Ford to avoid confusion with actress Elizabeth Taylor who has been married seven times. This was also a source of humor for comedians during Mrs. Ford’s tenure in The White House.

Betty Ford First Year as First Lady
Betty Ford First Year as First Lady
  • Born: 8 April 1918, Chicago, Illinois, United States
  • Died: 8 July 2011, Eisenhower Health, Rancho Mirage, California, United States
  • Spouse: Gerald Ford (m. 1948–2006), William C. Warren (m. 1942–1947)
  • Children: Susan Ford, Steven Ford, Michael Gerald Ford, John Gardner Ford
  • Books: Thinking about Drinking, Times of My Life, MORE
  • Education: Innovation Central High School (1936), Bennington College
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Social Issues

Betty pushed for a national anti-drug campaign and supported an amnesty program for Vietnam War draft evaders. In 1975, Betty founded an alcohol rehabilitation center near her home in Palm Springs, California which continues to operate today under its original name of Eisenhower Medical Center. She also founded Grandma’s House in Grand Rapids, Michigan where she provided shelter and assistance to troubled children.

The 1976 Election Results

Betty Ford did not have to run in her own right since she was still married to President Gerald R. Ford, who had been elected to a full term as president in November 1976. Betty, however, actively campaigned for him across much of his campaign, though she focused on women voters during her time on trail. It helped: Gerald Ford won all 50 states and 57 percent of the vote. This made Betty—and America—the first nation-wide popularly elected first lady.


Betty Ford was a very active first lady and involved herself in politics much more than any previous president’s wife. In fact, she played a crucial role in her husband’s success during his presidential term. She publicly supported her husband on several controversial issues, such as his pardon of Richard Nixon and legalizing abortion.

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How old was Betty Ford when she died?

The former first lady of the United States, Betty Ford, was 93 when she died on July 8, 2011. Ford passed away peacefully at her home in Rancho Mirage, California, according to a statement released by her family. She had been battling chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and leukemia. It is with great sadness that we announce that First Lady Barbara Bush and Craig Brown are very saddened to announce that today our beloved wife, mother and grandmother has gone home to heaven, read a statement issued by Bush spokeswoman Jean Becker.

 Betty ford center

The Betty Ford Center is a famous rehabilitation clinic in Rancho Mirage, California. Founded by former first lady Betty Ford and opened in 1982, it has been home to numerous celebrities over its storied history. It remains an active addiction-treatment center today, with such notable former patients as Elton John and Dennis Rodman.

 Betty ford foundation

After her husband’s death in 2006, Betty turned her efforts to philanthropy and activism on behalf of women with breast cancer. She established The Betty Ford Center in 1982, which provides alcohol and drug rehabilitation services to patients at no cost. During its first year, it served 818 patients and provided more than $1 million in free care. Today, it is one of California’s largest nonprofit providers of substance abuse treatment and still offers free care to its patients.

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 What is betty ford known for

She was known for being a good first lady and supporting her husband to get through a tough presidency. Betty ford was also known for getting treatment for drug abuse in a hospital.

 Betty ford hazelden

With Betty Ford in her first year as first lady of the United States, women across America have watched with interest and admiration. Many have admired her concern for human rights, her work in behalf of world peace and her courageous struggle to help those who suffer from alcoholism and drug abuse.

 Betty ford accomplishments

After her tenure as first lady, Betty did not retreat from public life. She continued to support multiple charities including being active in centers for alcohol and drug abuse. She began writing a weekly newspaper column in 1983. In 1989, she established an annual award in her name: The Betty Ford Award for Outstanding Leadership in Substance Abuse Prevention. This award is given each year at a national conference that focuses on issues related to substance abuse.

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