RIP Betty Ford — Rockin’ Feminism Old School

Betty Ford

I was more inspired than sad today when I read in the New York Times Enid Nemy’s fascinating obit  about Betty Ford, who passed away on Friday at the age of 93.  Given the current political and societal landscape, where political spouses are in the news for tawdry Twitter tales and Tiffany credit lines, Betty Ford’s life, replete with challenges that resonate at all levels of the social strata — drug and alcohol addiction, breast cancer, death of a spouse — makes me, to borrow from Jack Nicholson’s “Good as It Gets” toolkit, want to be a better woman. 

Aside from hailing from Michigan (which immediately gets her points in my book), there are so many reasons to love Betty Ford.  For those of you too young to remember, consider the following:

— In September 1974, a month after her husband Gerald Ford succeeded to the presidency in the wake of Nixon’s resignation over Watergate, Ms. Ford underwent a breast-cancer-related radical mastectomy and began a two-year stint of chemotherapy.

— During the administration of her husband — a Republican — Ms. Ford spoke out frequently in favor of the Equal Rights Amendment and legalized abortion, and discussed women’s sexual issues openly, publicly, and frankly.

— Ms. Ford encouraged her husband to appoint more women to the cabinet (which he did) and to appoint a woman justice to the Supreme Court (which he didn’t).

 — When her husband lost the presidency to Jimmy Carter, it was Betty Ford, not Gerald, who read the official concession statement.

— After leaving the White House, Ms. Ford entered a treatment center for drug and alcohol dependency, and to celebrate her recovery, co-founded the Betty Ford Center, a nonprofit venture that has become one of the preeminent dependency treatment centers in the country.

— When Gerald Ford died in 2006, it was Betty Ford who announced his death.

Betty Ford overcame some of the toughest challenges life has to offer, and came out smiling.  I can’t improve upon Ms. Enid’s closing quote from Betty Ford, so I will simply reproduce it here: 

I am an ordinary woman who was called onstage at an extraordinary time. . . . I was no different once I became first lady than I had been before.  But through an accident of history, I had become interesting to people.

Frank, funny, courageous . . . and modest too.  Thank you, Betty Ford, for providing us with such a wonderful blueprint of a well-lived life.

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    July 9, 2011 · admin · No Comments ·  Tags:  · Posted in: girlpower

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