Ford, Betty, 1918-2011Alternative names
Elizabeth Ann (Betty) Bloomer was born on April 8, 1918 in Chicago, Illinois, and raised in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She is the third child and only daughter of Hortense Neahr and William Stephenson Bloomer. After graduating from Central High School in 1936, she attended the Bennington School of Dance for two summers. While studying modern dance at Bennington she began her long association with dance legend Martha Graham. She studied at the Graham School in New York City, and became a member of the Martha Graham Auxiliary Group. Their friendship lasted until Graham''s death in 1991. In 1941, Betty Bloomer returned to Grand Rapids where she became a fashion coordinator and continued her interest in dance, forming her own dance group. She also worked with handicapped children, teaching them the value of rhythm and movement.
In 1947, Betty met Gerald R. Ford, a young Navy lieutenant who returned home to Grand Rapids, following his tour of duty, to rebuild his law practice. In February 1948 Betty and Jerry were engaged to be married. Their wedding took place on October 15, 1948, two weeks before he was elected to his first term in Congress. They are the parents of four children: Michael Gerald, born March 14, 1950; John Gardner, born March 16, 1952; Steven Meigs, born May 19, 1956; and Susan Elizabeth, born July 6, 1957. They are also the grandparents of five granddaughters, Sarah, Bekah, and Hannah Ford, Tyne and Heather Vance, and two grandsons, Christian and Jonathan Ford.
For most of the 25 years of Gerald Ford''s Congressional career, the Fords lived in Alexandria, Virginia. During this period, Betty dedicated much of her time to the children''s Cub Scouts, Brownies, baseball, football, and the Episcopal Church. She also spent much of her time with the Congressional Wives Club, the 81st Congress Club, and the National Federation of Republican Women.
On December 6, 1973, President Nixon selected Gerald R. Ford, minority leader of the House, to serve as Vice President of the United States, and on August 9, 1974, Vice President Ford was sworn in as the 38th President of the United States. As First Lady, Mrs. Ford directed her efforts toward the arts, handicapped children and women''s issues. She was also very involved in working toward the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment. While in the White House, Mrs. Ford encouraged her husband to present the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Martha Graham, the first dancer so honored. In September 1974, her own diagnosis with breast cancer led to her advocacy for increased awareness with regard to this and other women''s health issues. In 1982, when Nancy Brinker founded the Susan G. Komen Foundation in memory of her sister, Mrs. Ford served as co-chairman. The Komen Foundation awarded its first Boehm porcelain "Peace Rose" to Mrs. Ford for her prominent role in support of breast cancer research and education, and honored her by naming this award the Betty Ford Award. Each year Mrs. Ford presents this award to the new recipient for their role in the fight against breast cancer.
In 1978 Mrs. Ford wrote an autobiography, The Times of My Life, which chronicled her life through the White House years. Her second book, Betty: A Glad Awakening, was published in 1987, and recounted her own recovery from chemical dependency in 1978. She has been an active and outspoken advocate for improved awareness, education and treatment for alcohol and other drug dependency. Mrs. Ford and Leonard Firestone were co-chairmen and founders of the Betty Ford Center, located in Rancho Mirage, California, which opened in October 1982. The Center''s treatment program assists women, men and their families in starting the process of recovery from alcoholism and other drug dependency. Mrs. Ford serves as an active, hands-on Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Betty Ford Center. She also continues to be very involved with handicapped children, the arts, the importance of early detection of breast cancer, arthritis, AIDS and other women''s issues. In October 1999, President and Mrs. Ford were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal for dedicated public service and outstanding humanitarian contributions.
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- Chicago, IL, US
- Rancho Mirage, CA, US