Former US First Lady Betty Ford dies at 93


The BBC's Peter Bowes looks back at the life of Betty Ford

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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.

Start Quote

No one confronted life's struggles with more fortitude or honesty, and as a result, we all learned from the challenges she faced”

End Quote Former President George HW Bush

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.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    Hallelujah. I'll try to say this nicely so as not to upset our moderator. The Fords played a vital role in keeping the truth about some of the most horrible events in American history from the American people. Please learn just a little bit about these people before you say that she was such a wonderful person. Disagree in ignorance if you must. That is, after all, the easy thing to do.

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    Betty Ford was a wonderful person to be with as could reach out to every individual, no matter who they were, with a warmth and humour that was relaxed and personal in a way that made her very different from other First Ladies.She and Gerry were a double act in enertainment but also in trading ideas and reaching decisions in politics. They don't make them like that any more sad to say.

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    I think it says something good about her that she is better known for the clinic than for her husband. And what she has done stands apart from anything political.

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    I knew the Ford family in the 60's, and went to school with sons Mike and Jack. Mrs Ford will be sadly missed, she was a lovely person.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    A truly noble women of compassion and dignity.


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