Former First Lady Betty Ford was born Elizabeth Ann Bloomer (1918-2011) on this day in Chicago. She grew up in Grand Rapids, Michigan and studied modern dance with trailblazer Martha Graham.
The beautiful Betty worked as a fashion model before marrying Gerald Ford in 1948. Two weeks later he was elected to his first of 25 years in the U.S. Congress.
As First Lady (1974-1977), she was greatly admired for her openness and honesty. An outspoken advocate for the Equal Rights Amendment, she once said, "The search for human freedom can never be complete without freedom for women."
Ford's unprecedented candor about her 1974 mastectomy helped raise the world's consciousness about breast cancer, which ultimately saved lives. "Lying in the hospital," she recalled, "I'd come to recognize more clearly the power of the woman in the White House."
Her power endured outside the White House as well. Successfully treated for prescription drug and alcohol dependency in 1978, she resolved to help others with similar addictions.
Along with Leonard Firestone, former ambassador to Belgium, she opened the Betty Ford Center in Rancho Mirage, California in 1982. Offering "hope and a special place of healing," and pioneering gender-specific treatment, the center has helped thousands of patients.
Ford has co-authored two memoirs, Times of My Life (1979) and Betty : A Glad Awakening (1987). President and Mrs. Ford were awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1999.
Stay true to yourself, without compromise.