Elizabeth Anne “Betty” Bloomer Ford, wife of the late President Gerald Ford, passed away on Friday.
“It is with great sadness that we inform you that our beloved mother Betty Ford has passed away at 93 years of age. She died peacefully today at Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage, Calif.,” Ford’s surviving family said in a statement provided on BettyFordMemorial.com.
According to her biography, the Fords married in October 1948 and bore four children. Ford became first lady to the 38th President of the United States in August 1974, after the Watergate scandal caused then-President Richard Nixon to step down.
Ford broke with social norms when she openly discussed her battle with breast cancer, which began in 1974, fostering a public conversation on diagnosis and treatment that had not previously occurred. During her time as first lady, Ford was an outspoken supporter of women’s rights and the Equal Rights Amendment. Never afraid of controversy, Ford later went on 60 Minutes and openly discussed her opinions on abortion rights, pre-marital sex and marijuana use.
It was her own public struggles with and ultimate triumph over substance abuse that led Ford to co-found, with Ambassador Leonard Firestone, the nonprofit Betty Ford Center at the Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage, Calif., in 1982.
The family’s statement also read: “Mother’s love, candor, devotion, and laughter enriched our lives and the lives of the millions she touched throughout this great nation. To be in her presence was to know the warmth of a truly great lady.”