Here President and Mrs. Ford ride in the Presidential limousine during a trip to Chicago on August 19, 1974.
President Ford logged over 270,000 miles of travel while in office, and Mrs. Ford regularly accompanied him on trips. They attended public events together and made state visits to several foreign countries. “I had fun, I was privileged to travel in style and to see many wonders,” she reflected on their Presidential trips in her memoirs, “and these will stay in my memory.”-from the Ford Library
Morley Safer’s interviewed Betty Ford for the CBS news program “60 Minutes.” They taped the interview in the White House Solarium on July 21, 1975.
The “60 Minutes” segment marked Mrs. Ford’s first extensive, exclusive TV interview. Safer questioned her on a number of topics including her experiences as a politician’s wife, openness about her breast cancer, and support for women’s rights, particularly the Equal Rights Amendment.
Safer noted that unlike many political wives, for Betty Ford “the higher your husband’s gotten, the more really controversial things have been said.” This interview would be no exception. She called the Supreme Court’s ruling to legalize abortion “a great, great decision,” and discussed premarital sex and the possibility of her children using drugs.
After the segment aired on August 10 the White House received a deluge of negative comments regarding Mrs. Ford’s position on these issues. Public mail ran 2 to 1 against Mrs. Ford, although more positive comments came in over time. In the long run her approval rating increased after the controversy died down.
According to Sheila Weidenfeld, Mrs. Ford’s press secretary, the First Lady later sent Safer an autographed picture inscribed, “If there are any questions you forgot to ask – I’m grateful.”
-from the Ford Library
President Ford dances with Queen Elizabeth II while Mrs. Ford partners with Prince Philip following a state dinner honoring Her Majesty on July 7, 1976.
Betty Ford attended the dedication of Bennington College’s new Visual and Performing Arts Center on May 22, 1976. The First Lady had studied dance there as a teenager in the 1930s.
In her remarks Mrs. Ford reflected on her time at Bennington and her appreciation for the arts. “For those of us who studied here, Martha Hill, Martha Graham and others gave us something else. They touched our hearts with fire and infused us with spirit,” she said. “Isn’t that what the arts are about? Nourishment for the soul. The arts, especially for me the dance, draw out our emotions and make us more alive. Very often the arts help me to see life in a new way.”
During the ceremony Mrs. Ford affixed a plaque to the building, officially dedicating the center. She and Martha Hill, who had been one of her dance instructors at Bennington, watched a presentation of pieces choreographed and performed by students from the college’s dance department in the new building’s West Dance Studio.
(White House photograph A9928-14A)
Reviews of a Revue
The Fords invited actress-singer-dancer Ann-Margret to entertain guests after the dinner honoring the Shahanshah and Empress of Iran. Known for her work in musicals and movies including Bye Bye Birdie and Tommy, she had also traveled to Southeast Asia on a USO tour to entertain troops stationed there.
Ann-Margret’s debut White House performance was based on her night club act. Her musical numbers included “I Won’t Last a Day Without You,” “Swedish Lullaby,” and a “Salute to the Bicentennial.”
Press reaction to the entertainment was mixed to negative. The Fords took it in stride. “We certainly didn’t please all of the people all of the time. We thought it was great, for instance, to ask Ann-Margret,” Betty Ford wrote in her memoirs. “Well, Betty Beale came out with a column in the Washington Star that ripped us up and down for having made that choice.” Other commentators called the Vegas-style revue tasteless and deemed it too low-brow for the White House and its royal guests.
Time Flies When You’re Having Fun
It’s hard to believe, but we’ve made it through all of the state dinners hosted by President and Mrs. Ford. We hoped you’ve enjoyed going behind the scenes at these White House events.
Although we’re saying goodbye to our state dinner focus, don’t worry! We’ll be back soon with even more great items from our collections.
President and Mrs. Ford wave goodbye to Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti as he departs the White House following a state dinner held in his honor on December 6, 1976.
We loved the State Dinner series and we’ll be reblogging those over the next few months. Looking forward to seeing what else our colleagues at fordlibrarymuseum have planned!
On the Menu: Suprême of Royal Squab
Chefs in the White House kitchen begin preparing the squab that will be the main course at the state dinner for Prime Minister Harold Wilson of Great Britain.
One of the first steps in planning what to serve at a state dinner involved contacting the State Department to inquire about dietary restrictions and likes or dislikes of the visiting guests. In this case, they were informed Prime Minister Wilson didn’t like oysters.
White House executive chef Henry Haller would prepare sample menus that were sent to the First Lady’s staff. Mrs. Ford approved this menu on January 23, a week before the actual dinner.
Today marks the 90th anniversary of the first time the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) was introduced in Congress in 1923. Both Gerald and Betty Ford were strong supporters of this constitutional amendment that stated, “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”
When the ERA was again introduced in the early 1970s, Congressman Ford voted in favor of it. Just over 30 states had ratified the amendment by the time he entered the White House. As President, Ford urged “those States who have not ratified the Equal Rights Amendment to give serious consideration to its ratification and the upholding of our Nation’s heritage.” He hoped that the requisite goal of ratification by 38 states would be reached in the Bicentennial year of 1976.
First Lady Betty Ford staunchly and vocally supported the ERA. “It is my personal opinion that ratification of the ERA is the single most important step that our nation can take to extend equal opportunity to all Americans,” she said.
Here is one of her statements explaining why she was firmly in favor of this amendment.
Photo: First Lady Betty Ford Expressing her support for the Equal Rights Amendment in Hollywood, Florida. 2/25/75.
King Hussein, President Ford, Queen Alia, and Mrs. Ford pause at the base of the Grand Staircase before proceeding to the East Room to receive their guests.
Having attended White House functions before, President Ford felt that this first state dinner “would also give Betty and me an opportunity to put our personal imprint on White House social occasions.” He observed that during the previous administration after dinner entertainment had been formal and the Nixons usually left just after the show. The Fords wanted their dinners to be “more relaxed” and included after-dinner dancing as part of the evening.
Happy Birthday Bob Hope! The entertainer would be celebrating 110 years today.
Here, Hope and Betty Ford do a few steps to warm up during preparations for the State Dinner held in honor of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip on July 7, 1976. Hope was featured during the entertainment portion of the evening.
-from the Ford Library
“…one day I appeared to be fine and the next day I was in the hospital for a mastectomy. It made me realize how many women in the country could be in the same situation.
That realization made me decide to discuss my breast cancer operation openly, because I thought of all the lives in jeopardy. My experience and frank discussion of breast cancer did prompt many women to learn about self-examination, regular checkups, and such detection techniques as mammography. These are so important. I just cannot stress enough how necessary it is for women to take an active interest in their own health and body.
Too many women are so afraid of breast cancer that they endanger their lives. These fears of being “less” of a woman are very real, and it is very important to talk about the emotional side effects honestly. They must come out into the open.”
-Betty Ford in her remarks to the American Cancer Society, 1975
People didn’t talk openly about breast cancer when Betty Ford was diagnosed with the disease in 1974. As First Lady, Betty openly shared her breast cancer and mastectomy experiences with the public. In the process, she advocated for public awareness of breast cancer, self-examinations for early detection, and women’s health.
In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month, here are photos that the First Lady shared with the public following her breast cancer surgery at Bethesda Naval Hospital on October 4, 1974. One year later, Betty greeted the press in front of the Guttman Institute for Early Detection of Breast Cancer in New York.
Be sure to follow Our Presidents today for photos and stories from the life of former First Lady Betty Ford:
April 8, 1918 - July 8, 2011
To honor the remarkable and inspiring life of Betty Ford, Our Presidents will be sharing photos and stories about the former First Lady. Here, President and Mrs. Ford hug each other in the Oval Office. December 6, 1974.
From the Ford Presidential Library and Museum.