Betty Ford became the first lady when her husband, Gerald Ford took office after the resignation of President Richard Nixon. Betty Ford grew up in Chicago in a large family. Her mother enrolled Betty in ballet, tap, and modern movement allowing Betty to find her passion in dance and pursue a career in it. She would open her own dance studio while in high school teaching both children and adults. An incredible merit for someone so young and ambitious at the time.
Her father died in a terrible incident when Betty was just 16 leaving her mother to support the whole family. This would impact Betty throughout her whole life, realizing how unfair society was towards women in norms and pay. After graduation, she continued to pursue dance, working as a model at a department store to support her studies at dance school.
Her dance career never skyrocketed as she imagined so Betty continued to work full time at the department store. She was still involved in dance and would offer weekly dance classes to African American children and children with sight and hearing disabilities. She married William C. Warren but again felt the harsh realities of how it was to be a woman at the time when he fell ill leaving her to support both of them. After his recovery, they divorced.
Betty met Gerald Ford in 1947, marrying a year after and soon after he won the election for congressmen. Betty would serve as her husband’s unofficial advisor, networking within the political arena. After Nixon’s resignation, Betty took a strong position in equal rights for women, abortion, and divorce. She faced controversy from the conservative side calling her “No Lady” but she gained acceptance from the whole nation due to her openness about these subjects. She realized how her position could influence others and create change. She fully supported the Equal Rights Amendment and was very open about her breast cancer. She was named woman of the year in 1975 for her advocacy for women’s rights. Betty Ford was a woman of transparency, always being clear about what was happening in her life and advocating for others.