Coming of age when Betty Ford and her husband found themselves accidental occupants of the White House, all I knew of Betty Ford was that she had big hair, and, subsequently, breast cancer and addiction issues.
Now I say, â€œWhat an amazing role model for women of all ages and political parties!â€ She did not let her marriage or her party affiliation or the time in which she lived define her.
Using her powerful position as First Lady, Betty Ford spoke her own views with her own voice, and, in turn, spoke for women everywhere. Not since Eleanor Roosevelt has a First Lady made such an open commitment to the American publicâ€”and Betty Ford made that commitment to the well-being of American women.
She said, â€œI do not believe that being First Lady should prevent me from expressing my ideasâ€ and meant it!
Betty Ford openly declared her support for Roe v Wade,Â stating in a television interview that the decision took the issue “out of the backwoods and put [it] in the hospital where it belongs.”
She spoke out and lobbied in support of the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment.Â Betty Ford spoke frankly about premarital sex, at a time when her statement that she would sleep in the same bed with her husband while they lived in the White House shocked many.
Betty Ford was diagnosed with breast cancer within days of moving into the White House. Instead of remaining mute or hiding in shameâ€”both of which were the expected conduct of the dayâ€”she made the breastin breast cancer meaningful. She encouraged women everywhere to get mammograms, and many did.
After leaving the White House, she spoke publicly about her addiction issues.Â She expressed the difficulties of being a wife and mother, and how vulnerable women are to depression and insecurity.
Betty Ford lived in a time when womenâ€”prominent or otherwiseâ€”of all parties stood silent. Because of the tenor of our time, people today focus on the fact that she was a Republican First Lady. The truth is that Democrats and Republicans alike were not speaking outâ€”but Betty Ford was!
Today, sadly, we are back to that time. Many Democrats stand mute as womenâ€™s reproductive rights are being eradicated. We must demand more. Where were Barbara Bush, Laura Bush and Michele Obama when their husbands passed legislation that took another big bite out of our rights to control our own bodies? (Just look at the damage caused by the Nelson Amendment in Healthcare or the current refusal to make contraception part of preventive care.)
We need another Betty Ford in the White House! Next timeâ€”hopefullyâ€”as President!
Betty Ford was a woman first, and everything else second!
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