Betty Ford,the outspoken and much-admired wife of President Gerald R. Ford who overcame alcoholism and an addiction to pills and helped found one of the best-known rehabilitation centers in the nation,died Friday in Palm Springs,California. She was 93.
Her death was confirmed by Chris Chase,her biographer.
The news of her death brought statements of condolence from President Obama,former Presidents George Bush,George W Bush and Jimmy Carter,and Nancy Reagan,the former first lady. She was Jerry Fords strength through some very difficult days in our countrys history, Mrs Reagan said,and I admired her courage in facing and sharing her personal struggles with all of us.
Few first ladies have been as popular as Betty Ford,and it was her frankness and lack of pretense that made her so. She spoke often in support of Equal Rights Amendment,endorsed legalised abortion,discussed premarital sex.
When her husbands voice failed him the morning after he was defeated in 1976,it was she who read the official concession statement with smiling grace.
The countrys affection for Betty Ford transcended party lines. It began in earnest slightly more than two months after Gerald Ford became president in August 1974. On September 28,1974,Mrs Ford had a radical mastectomy after doctors discovered cancer in her right breast. In the months that followed,tens of thousands of women,inspired by her forthrightness and courage in facing her illness,crowded into doctors offices for breast-cancer examinations.
Mrs Ford was once asked if she felt sorry for losing her breast. No! Oh,no – heavens,no, she replied. Ive heard women say theyd rather lose their right arm,and I cant imagine it. Its so stupid.
I am an ordinary woman who was called onstage at an extraordinary time, she wrote in her first autobiography. … through an accident of history,I had become interesting to people.