5 Things You Probably Didn't Know About Betty Ford

On July 8, 2011, former First Lady Betty Ford died in Rancho Mirage, CA, at the age of 93. Outside of being a first lady, she is probably best known for starting the Betty Ford Clinic. Here are five things you didn't know about Betty Ford…


Betty Ford Was Married to a Man Before Gerald Ford His name was William Warren, and he asked Betty to her first school dance at age 12. “She married him thinking he’d be a good match, but it didn’t work out. After five years of marriage, Ford filed for divorce. She then married Gerald Ford in Grand Rapids in 1948. After Ford became vice president, a People magazine reporter asked why she never spoke about the divorce. Her response: “Well, nobody ever asked me.”

Ford Originally Had a Chance to Be a Professional Dancer Ford nearly had a very different life, and she likely would have continued down another path had it not been for her mother's worry about her not being married. Ford used to study dance with the esteemed Martha Graham and actually performed in shows. However, her mother pressured her to return home and get married. Her mother didn't really approve of the dance career, and Ford agreed that she was probably not going to become a dancing star.


Ford's Alcohol Use Was a Reaction to Painkiller Use Ford's battle with addiction began after she took painkillers for a pinched nerve. She gradually began taking more and more pills daily, reaching about 25 pills per day at one point. Her family staged an intervention and got her into treatment. When she went into rehab, she admitted only to drug addiction at first. It wasn't until another person in rehab refused to admit to alcoholism that Ford suddenly admitted her own battles with alcohol. 

She Didn’t Want Her Name on The Rehabilitation Center Ford didn't want the clinic to have her name on it, not out of shame, but because she felt that it took the focus off the rehab purpose of the center. However, her husband and several other people convinced her to keep her name on the clinic because having that famous name made it easier for people to admit to having problems. The idea was that, if a former First Lady could publicly own her problems, then everyone else could, too. Decades later, over 90,000 people — from actress Elizabeth Taylor, singer Johnny Cash and actress Drew Barrymore, to parents who want to sober up for their families — have sought treatment at the facility.

He Is Credited With Saving Mary Tyler Moore's Life Actress Mary Tyler Moore checked into the Betty Ford Center in 1984 to be treated for alcohol dependence. Moore wasn't too keen on the mundane tasks of cleaning and abiding rules at the facility. So she snuck out in a taxi to a Marriott. The next morning, Betty Ford gave her a ring. “That phone call saved my life,” Moore wrote in her memoir “After All.” “I returned on my knees, pleading for reentry.”