Last night America lost a real treasure in First Lady Betty Ford. Ford was able to turn her struggles with alcoholism and pills into advocacy, thus creating the Betty Ford Clinic–an impressive legacy indeed. She died last night at 93.
Ford was one of the first First Ladies that had a rather public and intimate relationship with the media, hence The New York Times describing Betty Ford with: “Mrs. Ford’s impact on American culture may be far wider and more lasting than that of her husband.” Ford was candid about her views on premarital sex, marijuana, and therapy. By all standards of the current Republican Party, neither she nor her late husband, both of whom supported LGBT rights, would have been Republicans.
For those of us that grew up in the 1970′s, it was great seeing the First Lady wearing a “mood” ring, and using a CB, with the handle “First Mama.” She also made a guest appearance on the Mary Tyler Moore Show. Ford was a fierce advocate of equal rights for women, being quite vocal with her support for the passage of the ERA. In 1977, Ford joined former First Ladies Lady Bird Johnson and Rosalynn Carter at the National Women’s Conference in Houston, Texas. Before her husband died, both Betty and Gerald were vocal about being pro-gay rights. Imagine that — a Republican President and First Lady being vocal about civil rights.
In 1982, Ford started the Betty Ford Center for the treatment of chemical dependencies. In 1987 she published her memoir: Betty: A Glad Awakening. It is a great pleasure to honor Betty Ford, a dedicated voice to social justice, with an honest and passionate voice.
What makes me horribly sad is that there is not a Republican woman today that can fill her shoes. Reagan and the Teabaggers have moved a national discourse so far to the crazy right that Betty Ford would not be welcomed by her own party–what a tragic loss for them. I can only hope that the loss of the treasure that was Betty Ford forces the Republicans to do some serious reflection. You will be very missed, Betty Ford.