Betty Ford (1918-2011)

I’m surprised that nobody is writing this. First Lady Betty Ford: 70s First Lady, mother, feminist, breast cancer advocate, ERA supporter, pro-sex, pro-cohabitation, recovered prescription drug addict, founder of the Betty Ford Center for Health, and a maverick that spat at the constricting role of American First Lady , has died a few days ago. I’m shocked that there is not yet a mention of her in the website!!!!! Before Betty Ford: First Ladies and Presidents were expected to put up an image of being sexless and fake, First Ladies had to sit down and shut up no matter how much they agree or disagree with the President, had to be a bland and pleasant hostess, suffer silently, smile and look pretty and/or maternal with a plastered on smile. Breast Cancer was a dirty secret and so was alcoholism and addiction must be kept mum.

But Betty Ford was a kickass homemaker and mom who spoke of her mastectomy publicly and thus pushed breast cancer awareness in the late 20th century; endured hate mail as she admitted she and her husband shared a bed, spoke that she wouldn’t be surprised if her daughter had sex: “she’s human like anybody else”, thought that cohabitating would lower the divorce rate and prevent unhappy marriages; was vocal about her support for the ERA Amendment; encouraged her husband to put women in his cabinet; and later spoke openly about her addiction to pills in order to spread awareness about addiction and have people come and get help. Not seen much in the public eye since the funeral of Gerald Ford in 2006, she has died peacefully in her home surrounded by family at the age of 93. Also a revelation to those that remember Republicans being anti-sex,  anti-choice, and anti-birth control. She was a vocal supporter of abortion, which she had regarded as progress.

I learned about her in high school reading about First Ladies and also about the feminist movement in the 1970s. I was thrilled to read about this woman who was a former dancer that supported women’s rights and held a very cool view towards young people having sex. If it weren’t for her, life for First Ladies would have been even harder and more constraining like it was for her and her  predecessors. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Michelle Obama would’ve been eaten completely alive  if Betty Ford wasn’t so honest and upfront. She will be missed by feminist history geeks everywhere.

Disclaimer: This post was written by a Feministing Community user and does not necessarily reflect the views of any Feministing columnist, editor, or executive director.

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