Monday, July 11, 2011

Goodbye Betty Ford

Betty Ford official portrait October 2, 1974
Former First Lady Betty Ford died this past Friday, July 8,2011, at age 93.  Ford was thrust somewhat reluctantly into her role as First Lady after Richard Nixon resigned as President in 1974.  But she is fondly remembered by this blogger as a champion of women's rights and the Equal Rights Amendment.

Less than two months into her husband's presidency, Mrs. Ford discovered she had breast cancer.  Her openness and honesty about the disease played a key role in helping women learn about breast cancer and the importance of early detection.

The stresses of her daily life and the lack of medical oversight common for the times led to Mrs. Ford's combined addiction to alcohol and pain killers as early as 1965.  Her family intervened in 1978 and she voluntarily entered the drug and alcohol rehabilitation center at the Long Beach Naval Hospital.  After successfully going through treatment, Mrs. Ford joined with Leonard Firestone in founding a rehabilitation center specifically to meet the needs of women in Rancho Mirage, CA.  She remained actively involved there, serving as Chairman of the Board of the Betty Ford Center until 2005.

State dinner in honor of Egyptian President and Mrs. Anwar Sadat. October 27, 1975.
 Betty Ford had a wonderful fashion sense.  Before her marriage, she was a fashion model for Grand Rapids department store Herpolshiemer’s.  She worked her way up at the store to become a Fashion Scout (today known as a buyer), often traveling to New York to find the latest styles for the store.

Official portrait, December 24, 1975. Gown by Frankie Welch.
Mrs. Ford preferred a more formal tailored style, but also one that was affordable.  She often wore vibrant colors that were popular at the time.  Her preferred designers were Frankie Welch, Luis Estevez and Albert Capraro.

The Fords with Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip, July 7, 1976.
 Much of Betty Ford's clothing is housed at the Ford Library Museum.  The museum mounted an exhibit of some of her clothing in 2010.  You can see photos of some of the garments in the museum's Flickr photo feed.

Mrs. Ford dances with Prince Philip at the State Dinner, July 7, 1976.

"I do not believe that being First Lady should prevent me from expressing my views …  Why should my husband’s job or yours prevent us from being ourselves?  Being ladylike does not require silence.

~Betty Ford

All photos from the Ford Library Museum.