Elizabeth Bloomer Ford


1918-2011
Born: Chicago, ILĀ 
Married: William Warren, 1942, divorced 1947;
Gerald R. Ford
Children: Michael, John, Steven, Susan
First Lady: 1974-1977

Elizabeth "Betty" Ford became First Lady without her husband ever having to campaign for the Presidency or the Vice-Presidency. Gerald Ford was selected as Vice-President after the resignation of Spiro Agnew. When President Nixon himself resigned, Ford was elevated to the nation's highest office. Betty Bloomer's life has been nothing if not extraordinary. At various times she has been a dancer for Martha Graham, a John Robert Powers model, a fashion coordinator and a Congressional wife. She never expected, however, to be First Lady.
While growing up in Grand Rapids, Betty Bloomer wanted to become a dancer. She studied with Martha Graham as a teenager and later joined the Martha Graham Modern Dance company. Although Miss Graham thought that Betty had the makings of a superb dancer, Betty decided to return home and marry a young furniture salesman, William Warren. The marriage ended in divorce after four years but Betty Ford always said the experience made her appreciate what a good marriage could be. Several years later, she met Gerald Ford. He was an All American football player and Yale Law School graduate. They married during his first Congressional campaign and after winning the election, moved to Washington D.C.

Eventually, Gerald Ford became an influential political figure who was occupied campaigning or on political trips some 200 days out of the year. Betty was busy raising their four children and, as she put it, "chauffeuring and cooking." When Ford was called upon to assume the Vice-Presidency, his wife was confident that he had only the remotest possibility of succeeding to the Presidency. She viewed impeachment or resignation as a "terrible thing for the whole world." When the unthinkable actually occurred, she and her husband put aside the plans they had made for his political retirement and prepared to move into the White House.

As First Lady, Betty Ford spoke out on a variety of issues. She declared that "being ladylike does not require silence." She publicly supported women's rights and the ERA. She favored appointing a woman to the Supreme Court. Shortly after becoming First Lady, Betty Ford was diagnosed with breast cancer. Perhaps her most important contribution to the health of American women was her candid discussion of her battle with the disease. She hoped that other women would benefit from her experience. After she left the White House, Mrs. Ford founded the Betty Ford Clinic to help men and women overcome alcohol and drug dependencies.