US & Canada

US First Lady Betty Ford's funeral held

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Media captionMichelle Obama, Hillary Clinton and George W Bush were among the attendees of the funeral

Former occupants of the White House and other US dignitaries have gathered at a California church to honour late US First Lady Betty Ford.

Mrs Ford, known for her work on drug and alcohol treatment and considered one of the most visible first ladies in US history, died on Friday at age 93.

She was married to late President Gerald Ford, who succeeded Richard Nixon in 1974.

The public funeral is being held at a desert church in southern California.

First ladies

Image caption A coffin containing Mrs Ford's body was carried into the church by an honour guard

Among the mourners on Tuesday were First Lady Michelle Obama, former President George Bush, former first ladies Nancy Reagan and Rosalynn Carter and former California First Lady Maria Shriver.

Also in attendance was Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who was first lady from 1993 to 2000.

Mrs Ford's family is to hold a second funeral for her in Michigan on Thursday.

She was best known for her work on substance and alcohol abuse, including founding the Betty Ford Center for drug and alcohol rehabilitation in Rancho Mirage, California, a facility where tens of thousands of addicts have been treated.

She was also outspoken on women's rights issues.

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 after Richard Nixon resigned in disgrace over the Watergate scandal.

They were married 58 years.

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