Michelle Obama and Past Presidents, First Ladies Gather for Betty Ford Funeral

Posted July 12th, 2011 at 9:10 am (UTC-5)
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U.S. first lady Michelle Obama and former President George W. Bush are among those gathering at Tuesday's funeral for former first lady Betty Ford, who died Friday in California at the age of 93.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a former first lady herself, is attending with her husband, former President Bill Clinton. Former first ladies Rosalynn Carter and Nancy Reagan also planned to attend.

The service for Mrs. Ford is being held at a church in Palm Desert, California. Her remains will be flown to Michigan for a public viewing and burial alongside her husband, former President Gerald Ford, who died in 2006.

Mrs. Ford was an outspoken advocate for women's rights and women's health.

As first lady from 1974 to 1977, she became known for her candor, famously discussing women's rights, premarital sex and abortion in a television interview. She was diagnosed with breast cancer while at the White House, and became a champion for breast cancer research and awareness.

After leaving the White House, Mrs. Ford acknowledged and sought treatment for an addiction to alcohol and painkillers. In 1982, she co-founded the Betty Ford Center in California, still one of the most well-known and well-regarded treatment centers for substance abuse.

Mrs. Ford was born in Chicago in 1918. She moved to New York in her twenties and worked as a dancer and model.

The late President Gerald Ford was her second husband. The two wed shortly before he was elected to serve in Congress in 1948. He became vice president in 1973 after the resignation of Spiro Agnew — and became president in 1974 after the Watergate scandal led President Richard Nixon to resign.

President Barack Obama said Mrs. Ford distinguished herself through her courage and compassion. He said that as the nation's first lady, she was a powerful advocate for women's health and women's rights.