Thank you to the publisher, Gallery Books, for gifting me this book in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
“I’ve always wanted to dance on the Cabinet Room table.” – Betty Ford: First Lady, Women’s Advocate, Survivor, Trailblazer
Betty Ford was a firecracker. I had no idea she was a designer and trained dancer, married and divorced before she ever met Gerald Ford. The stigma attached to divorce in Betty’s day didn’t stop her from paving her own way to happiness.
I was humored at her nonchalant way of brushing off, or trying to, Gerald Ford when he asked her out for a drink. She said she was busy with work and wasn’t looking for a relationship. Betty had learned independence and self sufficiency from her mother. When Betty was young, her father died. What did Betty’s mother do? She went out and got a job as a real estate agent, in the 1930s.
McCubbin relates the life of Betty Ford in such a way, I felt like Betty was telling her story for all to hear. Betty and Gerald Ford evidently had a relationship built on love and honesty. The pictures shared in this book provide a glimpse into their life. I learned much about Betty’s outspoken approach was refreshing. She was unlike many of the second lady’s, and first ladies before her.
“But my own support of the Equal Rights Amendment has shown what happens when a definition of proper behavior collides with the right of an individual to personal opinions. I do not believe that being first lady should prevent me from expressing my views.”
She says plainly and I imagine matter of factly but with grace–
“Being ladylike does not require silence.”
Ford talked about many things during her husband’s sudden appointment to president after the Nixon situation. Breast cancer and having a mastectomy brought attention to the many women who had faced and undergone the same thing themselves. Talking about the fact that her children had probably tried Marijuana shocked some, but for Betty, she was speaking truthfully. She didn’t try to be someone she was not.
Betty even appeared on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and I thought, my goodness, did my 10-12 year old self see the reruns on Nick at Nite and not know one of the guest stars was Betty Ford? More than likely. I’m sure I’m not the only person who watched old TV show series reruns as a kid.
One of the most notable things I learned about Betty Ford was her resilience in the face of addiction. Betty was addicted to various medications and coupled with drinking, her family had quietly enabled her for many years without saying anything. The book opens with the intervention to get Betty the help she needed, but by the time the book ends, I realized the courage it must have taken for her to face her addiction and get well. The Betty Ford Center (now Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation) was established in 1982 and has helped many people to get the help they need to conquer addiction as well.