cover image Betty Ford: First Lady, Women’s Advocate, Survivor, Trailblazer

Betty Ford: First Lady, Women’s Advocate, Survivor, Trailblazer

Lisa McCubbin. Gallery, $28 (432p) ISBN 978-1-5011-6468-2

In this meticulously researched and delightful biography, McCubbin (Mrs. Kennedy and Me) skillfully chronicles the life of former first lady Betty Ford, both in and out of the White House. Born Elizabeth Ann Bloomer in 1918, Betty—the youngest of three kids and the only girl—was raised largely in Grand Rapids, Mich. After performance school in Bennington, Vt., “Betty felt like she had been ‘born to dance,’ ” writes McCubbin, and in 1936 she moved to New York City where she studied with the Martha Graham Dance Company. She returned home and in 1942 married William G. Warren, who worked in her father’s insurance company, but divorced in 1947. The following year she met and married Gerald Ford Jr., who in 1974 became the 38th president of the U.S. In Washington, D.C., the Fords raised three sons and a daughter—and after an old dance injury flared up, Betty became addicted to painkillers and alcohol. Her decision to publicly share her story, McCubbin explains, led to the 1982 opening of the Betty Ford Center in Southern California, and her openness about her diagnosis with and recovery from breast cancer allowed a generation of women to speak about a disease once viewed as shameful. McCubbin writes with great tact and sensitivity in this insightful and beautifully told look into the life of one of the most public and admired first ladies. (Sept.)