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Former First Lady Betty Ford Has Died

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Former first lady Betty Ford has died. She was 93. Her death was confirmed by the director of the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum. "Ford died Friday evening with family at her bedside," reports KTLA. She had been in declining health since 2007. No other information about her passing was made available.

Ford was born Elizabeth Ann Bloomer on April 8, 1918. She was a model and dancer, who at one time performed with the Martha Graham troupe in New York. After her first marriage ended in divorce, she married Gerald R. Ford in 1948, who at the time was campaigning for the first of his ultimately 13 terms as a U.S. Representative from Michigan.

Betty Ford became first lady in 1974, and became one of the most politically active in the role since Eleanor Roosevelt. "Over the course of her husband's long political career, she became more and more outspoken. She publicly supported the Equal Rights Amendment and legalized abortion, long before he did," notes a bio.

Shortly after moving into the White House, Ford was diagnosed with breast cancer, and underwent a mastectomy. She became dependent on painkillers during her recovery, and ultimately drank heavily, and more so after Gerald Ford lost the Presidency to Jimmy Carter.

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After a family intervention, Betty Ford was admitted to a rehab facility in Long Beach. After leaving treatment she was inspired by the reaction from the public to found a treatment center, which came to bear her name, despite her initial objections. The Betty Ford Center opened in 1982 in Rancho Mirage, California.

Betty Ford remained politically active, though had several health problems, in her last couple of decades. Gerald Ford died in 2006, also at the age of 93. Betty Ford lived out her widowhood in Rancho Mirage.