Betty Ford, 1918-2011

I was in my self-centered twenties when Betty Ford was First Lady, so I didn’t pay much attention to her. I vaguely remember something about her having breast cancer and, later on, addiction to alcohol and pain killers.

It wasn’t until today, reading her obit, that I learned about Betty Ford’s exceptional character, grace, forthrightness, common sense and ability to conquer her demons.

After her radical mastectomy: “I’ve heard women say they’d rather lose their right arm, and I can’t imagine it, it’s so stupid. I can even wear my own evening clothes.”

On her addictions: “Now I know that some of the pain I was trying to wipe out was emotional. On one hand, I loved being ‘the wife of’; on the other hand, I was convinced that the more important Jerry became, the less important I became.”

On women of her generation: “I think a lot of women go through this (lose their feeling of self-worth). Their husbands have fascinating jobs, their children start to turn into independent people and the women begin to feel useless, empty.”

On being First Lady: “I am an ordinary woman who was called onstage at an extraordinary time. I was no different once I became First Lady than I had been before. But through an accident of history, I became interesting to people.”

Her positions on the issues: She supported the Equal Rights Amendment and legalized abortion and talked openly about subjects such as pre-marital sex. She urged her husband to name a woman to the US Supreme Court. She influenced him to name Carla Hills as secretary of housing and urban development and Anne Armstrong as Ambassador to Britain.

Her sense of humor: When her husband complained she was too thin, she borrowed a skeleton from a hospital, dressed it in her hat and coat and sat it in a bedroom chair to welcome him.

First Lady Betty Ford.  A fitting title.

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