Betty Ford, the widow of President Gerald Ford, died Friday night at the age of 93, said the director of the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum. Ford founded an addiction center in California after she struggled for years with relentless addictions to painkillers and alcohol. Her family was beside her.
Elaine Didier, the director of the Grand Rapids, Michigan, museum, confirmed Ford's death to CNN.
President Barack Obama said that Ford was a powerful advocate for women's health and women's rights and that she helped reduce the social stigma surrounding addiction.
Elizabeth Ford was born in Chicago and was raised in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Betty and Gerald were married for 58 years and had four children, three sons and one daughter.
Betty Ford gained media attention after she publicly discussed her breast cancer diagnosis, abortion, pre-marital sex, and equal rights. She was named Woman of the Year by Newsweek in 1975. The Ford library and museum website said that her honesty and nonchalant attitude about what people thought of her was largely considered distasteful at the time.
In 1978, Ford arrived at the Long Beach Naval Hospital in order to receive treatment for alcohol and prescription painkiller abuse, enabling her to become the spokeswoman of all spokeswomen for people with addictions.
Ford told CNN's Larry King that My addiction was a combination of alcohol and the prescription drugs that ... both were a part of my life, but they did not become a problem until they overrode my common sense. She added, I didn't know what was happening, I just knew that I felt great and the pain was gone.
Betty's addiction prompted her to open the Betty Ford Center in Rancho Mirage, California. Ford has saved many lives, young and old, spiritually and literally.