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ABOUT THE WHITE HOUSE * FIRST LADIES



OUR FIRST LADIES:
18th Century
about_first_ladies_marthawashington Martha Washington
about_first_ladies_abigailadams Abigail Adams

19th Century
about_first_ladies_marthajefferson Martha Jefferson
about_first_ladies_dolleymadison Dolley Madison
about_first_ladies_elizabethmonroe Elizabeth Monroe
about_first_ladies_louisaadams Louisa Adams
about_first_ladies_racheljackson Rachel Jackson
about_first_ladies_hannahvanburen Hannah Van Buren
about_first_ladies_annaharrison Anna Harrison
about_first_ladies_letitiatyler Letitia Tyler
about_first_ladies_juliatyler Julia Tyler
about_first_ladies_sarahpolk Sarah Polk
about_first_ladies_margarettaylor Margaret Taylor
about_first_ladies_abigailfillmore Abigail Fillmore
about_first_ladies_janepierce Jane Pierce
about_first_ladies_harrietlane Harriet Lane
about_first_ladies_marylincoln Mary Lincoln
about_first_ladies_elizajohnson Eliza Johnson
about_first_ladies_juliagrant Julia Grant
about_first_ladies_lucyhayes Lucy Hayes
about_first_ladies_lucretiagarfield Lucretia Garfield
about_first_ladies_ellenarthur Ellen Arthur
about_first_ladies_francescleveland Frances Cleveland
about_first_ladies_carolineharrison Caroline Harrison
about_first_ladies_francescleveland Frances Cleveland
about_first_ladies_idamckinley Ida McKinley


20th Century
about_first_ladies_edithroosevelt Edith Roosevelt
about_first_ladies_helentaft Helen Taft
about_first_ladies_ellenwilson Ellen Wilson
about_first_ladies_edithwilson Edith Wilson
about_first_ladies_florenceharding Florence Harding
about_first_ladies_gracecoolidge Grace Coolidge
about_first_ladies_louhoover Lou Hoover
about_first_ladies_eleanorroosevelt Eleanor Roosevelt
about_first_ladies_besstruman Elizabeth Truman
about_first_ladies_mamieeisenhower Mamie Eisenhower
about_first_ladies_jacquelinekennedy Jacqueline Kennedy
about_first_ladies_ladybirdjohnson Claudia Johnson
about_first_ladies_patnixon Patricia Nixon
about_first_ladies_bettyford Elizabeth Ford
about_first_ladies_rosalynncarter Rosalynn Carter
about_first_ladies_nancyreagan Nancy Reagan
about_first_ladies_barbarabush Barbara Bush
about_first_ladies_hillaryclinton Hillary Clinton

21st Century
about_first_ladies_laurabush Laura Bush
administration_michelle_obama Michelle Obama



ELIZABETH BLOOMER FORD
b.1918

In 25 years of political life, Betty Bloomer Ford did not expect to become First Lady. As wife of Representative Gerald R. Ford, she looked forward to his retirement and more time together. In late 1973 his selection as Vice President was a surprise to her. She was just becoming accustomed to their new roles when he became President upon Mr. Nixon's resignation in August 1974.

Born Elizabeth Anne Bloomer in Chicago, she grew up in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and graduated from high school there. She studied modern dance at Bennington College in Vermont, decided to make it a career, and became a member of Martha Graham's noted concert group in New York City, supporting herself as a fashion model for the John Robert Powers firm.

Close ties with her family and her home town took her back to Grand Rapids, where she became fashion coordinator for a department store. She also organized her own dance group and taught dance to handicapped children.

Her first marriage, at age 24, ended in divorce five years later on the grounds of incompatibility. Not long afterward she began dating Jerry Ford, football hero, graduate of the University of Michigan and Yale Law School, and soon a candidate for Congress. They were married during the 1948 campaign; he won his election; and the Fords lived in the Washington area for nearly three decades thereafter.

Their four children--Michael, Jack, Steven, and Susan--were born in the next ten years. As her husband's political career became more demanding, Betty Ford found herself shouldering many of the family responsibilities. She supervised the home, did the cooking, undertook volunteer work, and took part in the activities of "House wives" and "Senate wives" for Congressional and Republican clubs. In addition, she was an effective campaigner for her husband.

Betty Ford faced her new life as First Lady with dignity and serenity. She accepted it as a challenge. "I like challenges very much," she said. She had the self-confidence to express herself with humor and forthrightness whether speaking to friends or to the public. Forced to undergo radical surgery for breast cancer in 1974, she reassured many troubled women by discussing her ordeal openly. She explained that "maybe if I as First Lady could talk about it candidly and without embarrassment, many other people would be able to as well." As soon as possible, she resumed her duties as hostess at the Executive Mansion and her role as a public-spirited citizen. She did not hesitate to state her views on controversial issues such as the Equal Rights Amendment, which she strongly supported.

From their home in California, she was equally frank about her successful battle against dependency on drugs and alcohol. She helped establish the Betty Ford Center for treatment of this problem at the Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage.

She has described the role of First Lady as "much more than a 24-hour job than anyone would guess" and says of her predecessors: "Now that I realize what they've had to put up with, I have new respect and admiration for every one of them."


Click about_presidents_geraldford here to read the biography of President Gerald R. Ford.

Learn more about Mrs. Ford at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library & Museum.

MD5: f54fb1d25cdc4a619adb6489defbb841
Original URL: http://whitehouse.gov/about/first_ladies/bettyford/

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