News / USA

Former First Lady Betty Ford Dies

President Gerald Ford and First Lady Betty Ford (C) pose with family members and their dog at the White House in this 1975 file photo
President Gerald Ford and First Lady Betty Ford (C) pose with family members and their dog at the White House in this 1975 file photo

Former U.S. first lady Betty Ford, an outspoken advocate for women's rights and the founder of the Betty Ford Center for substance abuse, has died at the age of 93.  Family members said she died Friday evening.

Ford was born in Chicago in 1918.  She moved to New York in her twenties where she worked as a dancer and a model.

The late president Gerald Ford was her second husband.  The two wed shortly before he was elected to serve in congress in 1948. In 1974, the couple moved to the White House, after the Watergate scandal led president Richard Nixon to resign.

As first lady, Betty Ford became known for her candor, famously discussing women's rights, premarital sex, and abortion in a television interview.  She was also diagnosed with breast cancer while at the White House, and became an advocate for breast cancer research and awareness.

After leaving the White House, Ford admitted and sought treatment for an addiction to alcohol and painkillers.  She co-founded the Betty Ford Center in 1982, still one of the most well-known and well-regarded treatment centers for substance abuse.

President Barack Obama said Ford distinguished herself through her courage and compassion.  He said that as the nation's first lady, she was a powerful advocate for women's health and women's rights.

Former president Jimmy Carter praised Ford for her work in improving mental health and substance abuse care.   

Former president George H.W. Bush called Mrs. Ford a "courageous first lady," a "wonderful wife and mother," and a "great friend."

Another former first lady, Nancy Reagan said Ford was an "inspiration to so many" thanks to her efforts at the Betty Ford Center, and to educate people about breast cancer.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.

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