Thank You, Betty Ford

BlogHer Original Post

Editor's note: Betty Ford died Friday, July 8 at age 93. Contributing Editor Suzanne Reisman wrote this tribute to her after Gerald Ford's death four years ago.

When Betty Bloomer Warren and Gerald Ford were engaged, he actually postponed the wedding because he was worried what voters would think of a divorced dancer. Divorced dancer? That should have been the least of his worries, given the firebrand that Betty turned out to be. Last summer, I went to DC with my mom and saw an exhibit on First Ladies at the Smithsonian. When I read about Betty Ford and her short time as First Lady, I was floored by her candor on everything from sexuality, abortion, the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) and women's rights, marijuana, breast cancer, and alcoholism and prescription painkiller addition. And yet, unlike what would happen today if a First Lady dared to air such controversial views, Americans loved Betty Ford. Her approval rating was 75%, much higher than her husband's ever was.

Betty Ford
Image: Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

Today, with FoxNews and other conservative media outlets, everything she'd say would be twisted and smeared. These days, is the wife of a Republican (or Democrat, for that matter) even allowed to indicate that she has her own ideas on issues? (See: Hilary Rodham Clinton and the vast right-wing conspiracy.) Even suggesting that wives should have a say in their husbands' political careers can ignite a shitstorm. In the wake of Gerald Ford's death, the tributes to the wonderful honesty of Betty Ford are pouring in. Mamacitarecently wrote:

There's not a lot about the presidency of Gerald Ford that is relevant to my children. His actions, such as the pardoning of Nixon, are of fleeting interest to them. Not so the actions of his wife. Our dinner table conversations this week have revolved around Betty, the "Betty Ford Center," and how this relates to the E! Channel and MTV: Betty Ford brought female substance abuse out of the closet in order to help others.

Dalene Entenmann at The Cancer Bloggoes further:

Recovered alcoholic and breast cancer survivor Betty Ford is known for being a healer for the people of this nation in her own right. She willingly battled her most private demons and medical challenges openly, breaking the rules by speaking publicly about struggles society deemed private matters best kept quiet and spoken of only in whispers behind closed doors.

Another accolade, from Cabearie at Cab Drollery

Her support for the ERA and for abortion rights, coming as it did from a woman with genuine GOP bona fides, stunned many conservatives, but in doing so also paved the way for women to have more of a say in their own lives.

Betty Ford is a role model. May future First Spouses follow her lead, not cower in fear of how her/his opinions might hurt her/his spouse, especially when she/he disagrees with the President. Suzanne also blogs at Campaign for Unshaved Snatch (CUSS) & Other Rants


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