Betty FordU.S. First Lady
Born: 8 April 1918
Died: 8 July 2011
Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois
Best known as: The former First Lady who founded the Betty Ford Center
Name at birth: Elizabeth Anne Bloomer
Betty Ford was known both as a former First Lady and as the founder of the Betty Ford Clinic for substance abuse recovery. She married Gerald R. Ford on 15 October 1948. Gerald Ford became a congressman two weeks later and served in the U.S House of Representatives until 1973, when he was appointed U.S. vice president by Richard M. Nixon (Nixon's first VP, Spiro Agnew, resigned in the midst of a scandal). When Nixon himself resigned in 1974, Betty Ford became the nation's First Lady. Shortly thereafter she was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a mastectomy. Suffering from the stress of her public role and the aftereffects of her illness, Ford became so hooked on painkilling drugs and alcohol that in 1978 she entered a California hospital to kick the habits. Inspired by the experience, in 1982 she founded the Betty Ford Center for Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitation in Rancho Mirage, California. The center was one of America's first prominent centers devoted solely to such recovery, and it eventually drew high-profile clients like Elizabeth Taylor and Liza Minnelli. Ford became a prominent activist in the field, and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom (1991) and the Congressional Gold Medal (1999). She published two autobiographies: The Times of My Life in 1978 and Betty: A Glad Awakening in 1985.
Gerald Ford died in 2006; he and Betty were married for 58 years… They had four children: Michael (born 1950), John (also known as Jack, b. 1952), Steven (b. 1956) and Susan (b. 1957)… In the 1930’s Betty Ford studied dance with the legendary Martha Graham at Bennington College and then in New York City… She was played by actress Gena Rowlands in the 1987 TV movie The Betty Ford Story… Gerald Ford was her second husband; she had been married to William C. Warren from 1942-47… Liz Taylor met her seventh husband, construction worker Larry Fortensky, at the Betty Ford Clinic in 1987.
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