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Betty Ford

1918 – 2011

“The search for human freedom can never be complete without freedom for women.”

Profile in Courage

After Richard M. Nixon resigned as a result of Watergate scandal the U.S. got a new president and a forthright first lady. Soon after her husband Gerald, took office in 1974, Betty Ford was diagnosed with breast cancer. Instead of keeping it quiet, she shared her diagnosis, treatment and recovery with the country. Her open, honest approach started a national conversation and helped raise awareness of breast cancer and its treatment options. 

In 1978, Betty Ford sparked another national discourse when she let Americans in on another health problem: addiction. In her book, Betty: A Glad Awakening, Ford revealed her earlier recovery from chemical dependency. Because of her status, Ford was able to undergo treatment at the U.S. Naval Hospital in Long Beach, California, but she recognized the need for a facility that emphasized addictions and recovery, especially for women. In 1982, she founded the non-profit Betty Ford Center, in Rancho Mirage, California, which offers programs for recovering drug addicts and alcoholics and their families.

Ford, who attended Bennington College, was one of Martha Graham’s first students of modern dance, studying with her first in college, and then later in New York City. In a 1987 interview, Mrs. Ford named her mother, Martha Graham and Eleanor Roosevelt as strong role models and influences. 


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