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Betty Ford

Candor and Courage in the White House

John Robert Greene

December 2004
176 pages, 13 photographs, 5-1/2 x 9-1/4
Modern First Ladies
Cloth ISBN 978-0-7006-1354-0, $29.95

book cover imageFirst Lady Betty Ford will long be remembered for her active support of the Equal Rights Amendment, her struggles with breast cancer and substance abuse, and her later involvement with the addiction treatment center that bears her name. But perhaps more than these, Betty Ford will stand as a paragon of candor and courage, an outspoken woman whose public positions did not always conform with those of her husband.

An independent, free spirit who regularly ranks among the most-admired First Ladies, Betty Ford is considered by many to be the most outspoken since Eleanor Roosevelt: she spoke her mind publicly and frequently, sometimes sending the president’s political advisors running for cover. This is the first book to address the successes and failures of her advocacy, the effect of her candor, and the overall impact of her brief tenure as First Lady.

John Robert Greene traces Betty Ford’s problems and triumphs from her childhood through her husband’s entire political career, including his controversial presidency, which thrust her into an unrelenting media spotlight. He then tells how she confronted her personal demons and became a symbol of courage for women throughout the nation.

Contrasting the sometimes harsh assessments of historians with the respect in which she continues to be held, Greene examines Betty Ford’s outspoken opinions on abortion and women’s rights and suggests that her views hampered Gerald Ford’s ability to forge a coalition within the GOP and may well have been a factor in his presidential defeat. Afterwards, as the author highlights, Betty Ford remained a role model for people suffering from addictions and personal pain, and made seminal contributions in the field of public advocacy for women’s health issues and substance abuse. The Betty Ford Center especially stands as a lasting tribute to her foresight and caring.

Greene concludes that, while Gerald Ford wanted to restore an aura of honesty to the presidency, in many ways it was his wife who accomplished this instead. His book, the first to draw upon her papers at the Ford Library, captures her courage and candor and tells why she will always be remembered—for who, not what, she was.

“Greene’s engaging biography gives Betty Ford her rightful place in history—as an outspoken first lady whose public positions did not always conform to her husband’s and as a courageous advocate for solutions to breast cancer and substance abuse.”--Susan Hartmann, author of From Margin to Mainstream: American Women and Politics since 1960

“Betty Ford was like no other First Lady before or since, and John Robert Greene shows why.”--Herbert Parmet, author of Presidential Power from the New Deal to the New Right

“A fitting tribute to a free spirit and most indomitable First Lady.”--James Cannon, author of Time and Chance: Gerald Ford’s Appointment with History

JOHN ROBERT GREENE is the Paul J. Schupf Professor of History and Humanities at Cazenovia College. Among his other books are The Presidency of Gerald R. Ford, The Presidency of George Bush, and The Limits of Power: The Nixon and Ford Administrations.


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