Former US First Lady Betty Ford dies at 93
Former US First Lady Betty Ford, the widow of former President Gerald Ford and founder of drug treatment facility the Betty Ford Center, has died at the age of 93.
Mrs Ford, who was known for her strong opinions on public issues, established the drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility in 1982.
Mrs Ford was considered one of the most visible first ladies in US history.
She was married to Mr Ford, who died in 2006, for 58 years.
Mrs Ford, had lived in California since her husband's death, died on Friday evening with family at her bedside, according to a family member.
"As our nation's First Lady, she was a powerful advocate for women's health and women's rights," President Barack Obama said, following the news of Mrs Ford's death.
He added: "After leaving the White House, Mrs Ford helped reduce the social stigma surrounding addiction and inspired thousands to seek much-needed treatment."
"I was deeply saddened this afternoon when I heard of Betty Ford's death," another former First Lady, Nancy Reagan, said in a statement.
End Quote Former President George HW Bush
No one confronted life's struggles with more fortitude or honesty, and as a result, we all learned from the challenges she faced”
Mrs Reagan added that Mrs Ford was her husband's "strength through some very difficult days in our country's history".Raising public awareness
Mrs Ford, who won battles with breast cancer, and drug and alcohol addiction, sought to raise awareness about both issues. She was also outspoken on women's rights issues.
She was noted for helping to create the Betty Ford Center for drug and alcohol rehabilitation in Rancho Mirage in California, a facility where tens of thousands of addicts have been treated.
Former President George HW Bush said on Friday that "no one confronted life's struggles with more fortitude or honest".
"The Betty Ford Center, which already has helped change the lives of thousands of people, will be her lasting legacy of care and concern," Mr Bush said.
Mrs Ford was born Elizabeth Anne Bloomer in Chicago in the state of Illinois in 1918 and grew up in Grand Rapids, Michigan, as one of three children.
After studying dance at Bennington College in Vermont, she moved to New York City at the age of 21 to work as a dancer and model before heading back to the mid-western US two years later.
Mrs Ford met and married her first husband, William Warren, in 1942 but divorced after five years.
A short time later, she met Gerald Ford, a Navy lieutenant at the time.
The two lived in the Washington DC area for nearly three decades as Mr Ford climbed from Capitol Hill, where he served as a congressman, to the White House, where he held the presidency from 1974-1977.