Her first marriage, to William C. Warren, ended in divorce in 1947. She married Gerald Ford, then a lawyer and World War II veteran, on October 15, 1948. She would campaign for Ford in his twelve victorious runs for Congress. They had four children: Michael, John, Steven and Susan.
On August 9, 1974, Gerald Ford - then serving as Vice President - took the oath of office as the 38th President of the United States after the resignation of President Richard Nixon. As First Lady, Betty Ford became a leader on women issues and was a strong advocate of the Equal Rights Amendment.
In October 1974 she was diagnosed with breast cancer and had to undergo radical surgery. She was known for publicly discussing her diagnosis and treatment. "Maybe if I as First Lady could talk about it candidly and without embarrassment, many other people would be able to as well", she said.
She also candidly shared her opinions on such provocative issues as abortion rights, pre-marital sex, and marijuana use. In 1975, she accompanied the president in journeys to fourteen countries, from China to the Vatican. She made several speaking tours throughout the east and mid-west. Betty Ford became very popular as First Lady, to the point were during President Ford's reelection campaign in 1976, lapel buttons said "Betty’s Husband For President!"
Betty Ford Center
After Gerald Ford's defeat for reelection in 1976, she became addicted to drugs and alcohol. A family intervention occurred in 1978, and Betty Ford attended Long Beach Naval Hospital for treatment. She wrote in her 1987 memoir, "It made me feel warm. And I loved pills. They took away my tension and my pain".
In 1982 she co-founded the Betty Ford Center at the Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage, California. She raised funds to help research and design treatments for Americans in recovery from alcoholism and other drug dependency. In 1991 she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George H. W. Bush for providing "selfless, strong, and refreshing leadership on a number of issues." In 1999 President Ford and Betty Ford were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal. She retired as chair of the Betty Ford Foundation in 2005, and her daughter Susan took over the position.