Ford, Elizabeth Anne Bloomer 1918–

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FORD, Elizabeth Anne Bloomer 1918– (Betty Ford)

PERSONAL: Born April 8, 1918, in Chicago, IL; daughter of William Stephenson (a salesman) and Hortense (Neahr) Bloomer; married William C. Warren, 1942 (divorced, 1947); married Gerald R. Ford (a former congressman and the thirty-eighth president of United States), October 15, 1948; children: Michael Gerald, John Garner, Steven Meigs, Susan Elizabeth. Education: Attended Bennington College. Politics: Republican. Religion: Episcopalian. Hobbies and other interests: Gardening.

ADDRESSES: Home—Box 1560, Rancho Mirage, CA 92270. Office—Betty Ford Center, 39000 Bob Hope Dr., Rancho Mirage, CA 92270.

CAREER: Dance instructor in Grand Rapids, MI, 1932–39; Martha Graham Concert Group, New York, NY, dancer, 1939–41; Herpolscheimer's Department Store, Grand Rapids, MI, fashion director, 1943–48; Betty Ford Center at Eisenhower Medical Center (alcohol and drug rehabilitation unit), Rancho Mirage, CA, cofounder and president, beginning 1982. Model at John Powers Agency, New York, NY, 1939–41; Sunday school teacher at Emmanuel on the Hill Episcopal Church, Alexandria, VA, 1961–64. Member of board of directors of League of Republican Women and of The Lambs; member of advisory board of Rosalind Russell Medical Research Fund. Program chair of Alexandria Cancer Fund; honorary chair of Palm Springs Desert Museum; chair of Washington Heart Association's Heart Sunday. Trustee of Nursing Home Advisory and Research Council, Inc.; national trustee of National Symphony Orchestra; member of national committee on observance of International Women's Year, 1977, and of Golden Circle Patrons Center Theatre for Performing Arts; patron of Salvation Army Auxiliary annual fashion show luncheon; supporter of National Endowment for the Arts. Association with Children's Hospital, Washington, D.C.; formerly associated with Cub Scouts of America. Starred with Maria Shriver in "Fatal Addictions," a television special about drug addiction, 1989.

MEMBER: American Red Cross Senate Wives Club (president), National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (founding board member).

AWARDS, HONORS: Silver Anniversary Humanitarian Award, 1975, from Philadelphia Association of Retarded Children; Rita V. Tishman Human Relations Award, 1975, from Women's Division of the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith; named distinguished woman of the year, 1975, by National Art Association; named woman of the year, 1975, by Newsweek, and 1976, by Ladies' Home Journal; Silver Spirit of Life Award, 1976, from Los Angeles City of Hope National Medical Center; Centennial Award, 1976, from McCall's; Media Award for Communication of Hope, 1976, from American Cancer Society; Spirit of Independence Award, 1976, from Golden Supper Club; Parson's Award, 1976, from New York Parsons School of Design; LL.D., University of Michigan, 1976; Alfred P. Sloan, Jr., Memorial Award, 1977; American Academy of Achievement's "Salute to Excellence" Golden Plate Award, 1985; Michigan Hall of Fame, 1987; Pioneer of the Year Award of the Soviet-U.S. Conference on Alcoholism and Drug Addiction, 1987; Presidential Medal of Freedom, 1991; American Health for Women's Health Heroes Awards, 1997; C. Everett Koop Health Advocate Award, 1999; Congressional Gold Medal, 1999; Denton A. Cooley Leadership Award, Texas Heart Institute, 1999; Greater Grand Rapids Women's History Council Legacy 2000 Award; Nelson J. Bradley Award, National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers (NAATP), 2003; R. Brinkley Smithers Lifetime Achievement Award, 2003; Woodrow Wilson Public Service Award, 2003; award from National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League.



(With Chris Chase) The Times of My Life (Book-of-the-Month Club selection), Harper (New York, NY), 1978.

(With Chris Chase) Betty: A Glad Awakening, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1987.

Healing and Hope: Six Women from the Betty Ford Center Share Their Powerful Journeys of Addiction and Recovery, Putnam (New York, NY), 2003.

Contributor to Embracing Our Essence: Spiritual Conversations with Prominent Women, Health Communications (Deerfield Beach, FL), 1995. Contributor of forewords to Selfish Brain: Learning from Addiction, by Robert L. DuPont, M.D., Hazelden (Center City, MN), 2000, and Winning the Race, by Nancy Brinker, Tapestry Press (Irving, TX), 2001.

ADAPTATIONS: Betty: A Glad Awakening was the basis for a television drama, The Betty Ford Story, shown on American Broadcasting Companies, Inc. (ABC) in March, 1987, starring Gena Rowlands.

SIDELIGHTS: Elizabeth Anne Bloomer Ford became known to the world as Betty Ford, the wife of Gerald Ford, the thirty-eighth president of the United States. During her tenure as first lady, she was known for speaking her own mind and strongly supporting women's rights. She went on to make her own legacy as the founder of a world-famous treatment center for drug and alcohol addiction, after courageously admitting her own dependence on alcohol and prescription drugs. Ford's autobiography, The Times of My Life, "reveals why she is one of America's most admired women," stated A. H. Cain in Library Journal.

Ford was born in Chicago but raised in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Her father died when she was seventeen years old, and she started to make her own way in the world as a model and dance instructor. When she was about twenty years old she met Martha Graham, the legendary pioneer of modern dance. Ford begged for a spot in one of Graham's troupes and was soon dancing for the choreographer's entourage. Discussing her association with Graham, Ford was quoted in Newsweek as saying, "[She] shaped my whole life. She gave me the ability to stand up to all the things I had to go through, with much more courage than I would have had without her."

In 1941, Ford left Graham's troupe and returned to Grand Rapids, at her mother's request. She continued to teach dance classes and worked as the fashion coordinator of a department store in that city. In 1942 she married, but in five years the union ended in divorce. Not long after she met Gerald Ford, a lawyer and congressman, who became her second husband. She found that a congressman's work demanded long hours; he worked through vacations, campaigned instead of celebrating their wedding anniversaries together, and when he became minority leader of the House of Representatives, Ford's husband spent 258 days per year away from home. The couple's children became the center of her world. Though she hardly realized it, she felt neglected and resentful. When a pinched nerve and spinal arthritis led her to start taking the medications that, along with alcohol, would alleviate her pain and her growing depression, Betty Ford began a long slide into addiction.

In 1973, Gerald Ford was appointed vice president of the United States to replace Spiro Agnew, who had resigned the position. Eight months later, when Richard Nixon resigned from the presidency, Betty Ford became the first lady, a job she did never expected or wanted to have. Yet, she adapted to the role of first lady well. Though the job entailed many responsibilities and pressures, she seemed to revel in them. With a well-deserved reputation for candor, Ford won "approval for her charm, honesty, and good humor," reported a writer for the Miami Herald. Considered the most outspoken first lady since Eleanor Roosevelt, Ford destroyed the prepared speech for her first official speaking engagement and was unafraid to speak out on a variety of sensitive subjects. For example, she told a McCall's interviewer that reporters had asked her about "everything but how often I sleep with my husband, and if they'd asked me that, I would have told them." When asked, she responded "as often as possible." In a now famous "60 Minutes" interview, a segment that generated the most mail in the television show's history, the First Lady discussed marijuana, equal rights for women, abortion, and the possibility of a premarital affair for her daughter, Susan. While some leading conservatives professed their shock over Ford's frank remarks, feminists and many other people across the country found Ford's candor refreshing.

Not long after becoming First Lady, Betty Ford discovered she had breast cancer. She underwent treatment, including a radical mastectomy and chemotherapy. Her willingness to be open with the public about her illness and treatment are credited with giving other women the courage to be screened for tumors and to seek treatment. Some years later, after leaving the White House, she again showed courage in the face of personal trauma when she entered a naval hospital for treatment of her addictions. Again, she was quick to use her own problems as a springboard to helping other people. Her first autobiography, The Times of My Life, was in press at the time she took steps to deal with her chemical dependency. A chapter about this important issue was quickly amended to the book.

Ford later wrote another volume, Betty: A Glad Awakening, that treated her history of addiction openly. "It's like taking another inventory," Ford explained to Andrea Chambers in People magazine. "The first book was on the outside—about people, places, and things. This book came very much from the inside. I thought I had examined my feelings before, but I really hadn't. I found I had carefully skipped over things." Betty chronicles Ford's dawning awareness of and eventual triumph over chemical addiction. It "is really a modest book about one woman's capacity for change: about the daily effort to live uncushioned by pills or liquor; about learning to connect with people once dismissed as pitiable or worse," wrote New York Times Book Review contributor Marian Sandmaier. Describing it as "a confession marked by candor and salinity," a Time reviewer noted, "There are no miracles here, but there is a collective refusal to succumb to the temptations of self-pity or despair."

In addition to telling her story, Ford took even more concrete steps to help others with addictions. In 1982, the Betty Ford Center was founded in Rancho Mirage, California, and began serving those with chemical addictions. Proceeds from Betty were donated to help fund the center, and Ford has, since its opening, taken a deep personal interest in the facility and its patients, often personally spending time with women who are anxious and despondent about being admitted. In 2003, she published Healing and Hope: Six Women from the Betty Ford Center Share Their Powerful Journeys of Addiction and Recovery, which weaves the stories of other women together with her own to give an idea of the many ways chemical dependency can manifest itself. Ford gives advice on conquering addiction and lends a "warm, authoritative overview" to the six other stories, according to Ray Olson in Booklist. He recommended Healing and Hope as "a solid popular introduction to the experience of recovery from addiction."



Feinman, Jeffrey, Betty Ford, Award Books (New York, NY), 1976.

Ford, Betty, The Times of My Life, Harper (New York, NY), 1978.

Ford, Betty, Betty: A Glad Awakening, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1987.

McPherson, Myra, Power Lovers, Putnam (New York, NY), 1975.

Weidenfeld, Sheila Rabb, First Lady's Lady: With the Fords at the White House, Putnam (New York, NY), 1979.


America's Intelligence Wire, January 3, 2004, Larry King, transcript of interview with Betty Ford.

Biography News, September, 1974.

Booklist, October 15, 2003, Ray Olson, review of Healing and Hope: Six Women from the Betty Ford Center Share Their Powerful Journeys of Addiction and Recovery, p. 355.

Chicago Tribune, November 6, 1978.

Christian Science Monitor, February 27, 1987, Arthur Unger, "Trials of Betty Ford Dramatized on ABC."

Detroit Free Press, February 22, 1987; June 10, 1987; May 4, 2001, Julie Hinds, "At 83, Betty Ford Continues to Speak Her Mind."

Detroit News, September 15, 1981.

Esquire, December 19, 1978.

Forbes, August 16, 1993, Steve Forbes, "Effective Helper of the Afflicted," p. 26.

Good Housekeeping, May, 1974, August, 1976, September, 1978; May, 1981, "Betty Ford: A Lesson in Caring," p. 108; February, 1988, Sarah Weddington, "Three Former First Ladies Speak Out."

Ladies' Home Journal, October, 1974; May, 1976; July, 1978; October, 1978; November, 1978.

Library Journal, December 15, 1978, A. H. Cain, review of The Times of My Life; February 1, 1987, Beverly Miller, review of Betty: A Glad Awakening, p. 73; December, 2003, Melody Ballard, review of Healing and Hope, p. 145.

Life, July, 1986, George Howe Colt, "First Ladies," and "First Ladies Reflect on Their Years in the White House."

Los Angeles Times, July 12, 1987, "4 Soviet Drug Experts Give Award to Betty Ford"; November 12, 1995, Pamela Warrick, "Living Out Loud," p. E1.

Los Angeles Times Book Review, March 29, 1987.

McCall's, May, 1974; October, 1974; December, 1974; February, 1975; September, 1975; May, 1976; January, 1977; July, 1978.

Miami Herald, August 9, 1974.

Modern Maturity, February-March, 1992, Karen Westerberg Reyes, "'There is so much help out there…'—Betty Ford," p. 29.

Ms., April, 1984, Gloria Steinem, interview with Betty Ford, p. 41.

National Review, August 29, 1975.

New Republic, May 26, 1979; July 8, 1985, P. J. Corkery, "Betty Ford Ministers to the Rich and Famous," p. 18.

Newsweek, June 2, 1974; June 23, 1974; August 19, 1974; October 7, 1974; October 28, 1974; January 27, 1975; August 18, 1975; December 1, 1975; December 29, 1975; July 4, 1976; August 23, 1976; March 21, 1977; August 1, 1977; December 25, 1978; January 15, 1979; "Telling All: Memoirs of the Stars," p. 50.

New York Post, December 15, 1973; August 17, 1974.

New York Times, October 15, 1973; August 5, 1975; January 25, 1977; November 8, 1978; November 10, 1978; September 9, 1979, review of The Times of My Life, p. 49; February 25, 1987, Stephen Farber, "TV Taking a Frank Look at Betty Ford's Drama," p. 21.

New York Times Book Review, November 26, 1978, Jane Howard, review of The Times of My Life, p. 14; September 9, 1979, review of The Times of My Life, p. 49; March 1, 1987, Marian Sandmaier, review of Betty, p. 9.

New York Times Magazine, December 8, 1974.

People, August 26, 1974; October 23, 1978, p. 35; December, 1984, Bonnie Johnson, "Betty Ford"; March 9, 1987, Andrea Chambers, "Frank as Ever, Former First Lady Betty Ford Describes Her Harrowing Years of Addiction," p. 88; March 7, 1994, "Betty Ford and Susan Ford Bales, Health Care Activists," p. 229; March 15, 1999, "Betty Ford: As America's First Lady of Candor, She Shed Light on Breast Cancer and Addiction," p. 169; May 15, 2000, Meg Grant, "On Her Own Terms," p. 169.

Presidential Studies Quarterly, fall, 1990, Lisa Tobin, "Betty Ford as First Lady: A Woman for Women," p. 761; September, 2001, Maryanne Borelli, "Competing Conceptions of the First Ladyship: Public Responses to Betty Ford's 60 Minutes Interview," p. 397.

Progressive, January, 1979.

Prologue, summer, 1987, Karen Rohrer, "'If There Was Anything You Forgot to Ask…': The Papers of Betty Ford."

Publishers Weekly, January 9, 1987, Genevieve Stuttaford, review of Betty, p. 76.

Redbook, January, 1977.

San Francisco Chronicle, March 21, 1997, Susan Joachum, "A Woman's Right to Choose," p. A24.

Saturday Evening Post, September, 1976.

Science News, November, 1978, Chris Chase, "The Times of My Life," p. 125.

Time, December 17, 1973; May 13, 1974; August 12, 1974; August 26, 1974; September 16, 1974; October 7, 1974; December 30, 1974; March 3, 1975; June 23, 1975; July 28, 1975; August 25, 1975; September 1, 1975; December 1, 1975; January 5, 1976; March 22, 1976; May 3, 1976; July 5, 1976; August 16, 1976; August 30, 1976; January 24, 1977; March 21, 1977; April 24, 1978, "Betty's Ordeal," p. 31; October 23, 1978, "The Unveiling of a New Ford (Betty Ford facelift)," p. 97; March 16, 1987, review of Betty.

Times (London, England), October 15, 1987.

U.S. News and World Report, August 19, 1974; October 7, 1974; December 30, 1974; August 25, 1975; December 15, 1975; December 29, 1975; March 8, 1976; October 18, 1976; June 20, 1977, "Six Former First Ladies: What Their Lives Are Like Now," p. 52; May 21, 1979, "Ex-first Ladies: How Much Protection?," p. 32; November 1, 1982, "What Ex-first Ladies Are Doing Now," p. 8; June 25, 1984, "Life after the White House: How First Families Adjust," p. 39; September 28, 1987, Muriel Dobbin, "Reflection on Life in a Fishbowl," p. 37; July 30, 2001, "Betty Ford, Political Savant," p. 5; August 20, 2001, Linda Kulman, Eric Tucker, "Betty Ford," p. 68.

Variety, September 6, 1989, review of "Fatal Addictions" (television program), p. 60.

Village Voice, November 27, 1978.

Vogue, September, 1974; April, 1975.

Washington Post, November 9, 1978; October 15, 1981, Donnie Radcliffe, "Conversations with First Ladies Betty Ford and Rosalynn Carter On China, ERA and More"; April 24, 1983.

Washington Post Book World, October 29, 1978; March 1, 1987.

Washington Post Magazine, July 21, 1974.

Washington Ways, April 10, 1984, Donnie Radcliffe, "First Ladies Take the Stand: Betty Ford's Conference on Their Lives and Times."

West Coast Review of Books, January, 1979.