Betty Ford Republican Feminist

Topics: Women's rights, Women's suffrage, Woman Pages: 5 (1724 words) Published: May 18, 2013
Betty Ford
“Republican Feminist”

Patricia Scurlock

In her contributions to both the political and social arena, Betty Ford promoted the importance of women. While Betty’s time as the First Lady was a short one, she certainly left behind quite a legacy and touched the lives of many women. Betty spoke publicly about her diagnosis and treatment for breast cancer, she strongly lobbied and pushed for the Equal Rights Amendment, she openly supported and lobbied for legal abortion, and lastly she was very active in advocating better health care and addiction treatment for women. Betty Ford was considered the Republican Feminist, who demonstrated women could stand up and have a voice! A short time after becoming the First Lady, Betty was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a radical mastectomy, an issue not commonly talked about outside of the woman or her home. It was during her recovery that Betty began recognizing her own power as First Lady and made the decision to go public. The antiquated ideal, as discussed in Barbara Welter’s article “The Cult of True Womanhood”,was that a woman’s submission was more than submitting to her husband, but it was also bearing her own crosses in silence and submitting to her own lot in life. And so began her public crusade and awareness for women and their own health; it was her statement, “The power was educational not political,” that helped relieve the stigma and shame surrounding women and their health. It was also the common 70’s theme for women that “our personal is political”. It was Betty’s sincerity and frankness that not only began paving the road for women, but also saving the lives of thousands. Once recovered from surgery, Betty’s top priority became the Equal Rights Amendment, (initially proposed by women’s suffrage champion, Alice Paul); to fully respect and protect the rights of women. Betty believed that no woman should have to live up to a “standard”; that women had the right to their own individuality, to be an individual with her own voice, an individual whom should be given the same rights as men. Overcoming her own fears and reluctance, Betty began lobbying for the amendment and its ratification to the Constitution. She began by contacting state legislatures, asking them for their vote for the passage. She began traveling and giving speeches; attending the International Women’s Year Conference in Cleveland, Ohio, in her speech, Betty urged attendees to work for the passage, being quoted as saying “being ladylike does not require silence.” In a time where there was much controversy, without hesitation, Betty advocated for women’s rights and ambitions. Betty was constantly encouraging her husband to appoint women to high level positions. Her voice was a strong one and many in the nation, at times, even favored her over her husband. While lobbying for the passage, Betty encountered much discontent from The House of Representatives, but it never stopped her fight. Betty made it known that she knew this amendment would not be “an instant solution,” but rather the ratification of the amendment would remove the restrictions and limitations of the stereotype, it would open up a world of opportunities for the woman. It was in her crusade for the Equal Rights Amendment, that Betty encouraged women to pursue a career. Betty defined the liberated woman as not only the woman who worked outside of the home but also the housewife. She gave many speeches to state legislatures and groups, and couldn’t stress enough, the importance of a woman being given the right to make her own decision, without any pressures or restrictions. She urged society to take the “just out of ‘just a housewife’,” as women were making it their life’s work to care for their husbands, children and homes. Women need not be programmed as they’d been in the past years when The Cult of True Womanhood was so strong a belief. Betty’s speeches detailed her belief that all women should be...
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