Betty Ford, Former First Lady, Dies at 93

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Betty Ford attends ICD Awards Gala on October 19, 1987 at the Waldorf Hotel in New York City.

The wife of former president Gerald Ford passed away Friday evening surrounded by family members. 

Ford will be remembered as one of the most outspoken First Ladies, appearing often in the spotlight while her husband was president.

In her later years, Ford became most known for co-founding her namesake addiction treatment center in California, the Betty Ford Center. In 1978, after her husband lost his campaign for a second term, Ford was treated for alcohol and prescription painkiller abuse. She went on to become a tireless advocate for substance abuse treatment. Ford also fought to raise awareness for breast cancer research.

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She was born Elizabeth Anne Bloomer and grew up primarily in Grand Rapids, Mich. When she turned 21, she moved to the bright lights of New York to become an actress and dancer, but returned to the Midwest two years later. After a whirlwind marriage to William Warren, she wed Gerald Ford — a former star football player at the University of Michigan and a decorated U.S. Navy veteran — in 1948. That year, she helped her husband with his successful campaign to become a U.S. Congressman.

She and Gerald had four children before moving the family to Washington, D.C., where Gerald Ford served in the House of Representatives for 25 years. In 1973 he was tapped as Richard Nixon’s Vice President. Just over 10 months later, Betty Ford became first lady when her husband was sworn in to replace Nixon. She made her presence known as First Lady, appearing on TIME’s cover three times.

Her husband, former President Gerald Ford, died in 2006.

Nick Carbone is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @nickcarbone. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

MORE: Betty and Gerald Ford on TIME’s cover

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