Feminists and others may have laughed at her husband, but she spoke often to our causes.
From the NY Times:
Few first ladies have been as popular as Betty Ford, and it was her frankness and lack of pretense that made her so. She spoke often in support of the Equal Rights Amendment, endorsed legalized abortion, discussed premarital sex and revealed that she intended to share a bed with her husband in the White House (NB).
The country’s affection for Betty Ford transcended party lines. It began in earnest slightly more than two months after Gerald Ford became president in August 1974, following President Richard M. Nixon’s resignation over Watergate. … On Sept. 28, 1974, Mrs. Ford had a radical mastectomy after doctors discovered cancer in her right breast.
… In the months that followed, tens of thousands of American women, inspired by Mrs. Ford’s forthrightness and courage in facing her illness, crowded into doctors’ offices and clinics for breast-cancer examinations.
After leaving the hospital, Mrs. Ford underwent chemotherapy treatment for two years. In November 1976, her physician announced that she had made a complete recovery.
The Betty Ford Center, dedicated on Oct. 3, 1982, was a direct result of Mrs. Ford’s victory over her alcoholism and addiction. Set on 14 acres on the campus of the Eisenhower Medical Center 11 miles southeast of Palm Springs, the center was a nonprofit venture spearheaded by Mrs. Ford and Leonard K. Firestone, an industrialist and former ambassador to Belgium who raised a major part of the money.
She was not a perfect advocate of feminist causes. She did not object to the 1976 Republican platform that called for banning abortion, and she was a hawk on Viet Nam. But she did many things, including pushing for her husband to appoint women to high government offices.