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Betty Ford, an Inspiration for Intimacies

First Lady Betty FordGiving voice to topics that are taboo is what made Betty Ford an inspiration for a generation. She was first lady of the United States from 1974 to 1977, during the presidency of her husband, Gerald Ford. Active in social policy, she shattered precedents as a politically active presidential wife. With her passing, comes remembrances of the paradigm shift she created.

Betty Ford’s comments weren’t the kind of genteel, innocuous talk expected from a first lady, and a Republican one no less. She spoke openly about breast cancer, when mention of a mastectomy was normally only whispered in private. The publicity helped bring the disease into the open and inspired countless women to seek breast examinations. Her revelations about her own own descent and recovery from substance abuse lead to the founding of the Betty Ford Center, which has helped celebrities from Elizabeth Taylor and Johnny Cash and yet keeps its rates relatively affordable and has served more than 90,000 people.  She was a powerful advocate for women’s health and women’s rights. She spoke openly of how living together before marriage might be wise, and she said she wouldn’t be surprised if her daughter had had pre-marital sex. When I was coming of age, she was a role model whom I took to heart.