Monday, January 01, 2007

A Betty Ford Story

In July 1978, as editor of McCalls, I published a piece, “Betty Ford: Her Long Struggle with a Lonely Marriage.”

Mrs. Ford had just been hospitalized for addiction to alcohol and tranquilizers after years of suffering with a pinched nerve in her neck.

Knowing that pinched nerves often result from emotional stress, I asked Myra MacPherson, who knew Mrs. Ford well, to interview her friends, family and physicians about that possible explanation.

They told of her distress that, after looking forward to retirement togetherness after his Presidency, her husband was still away from home politicking 200 nights a year.

Our conclusion: “Like other wives of ambitious men, she had to raise her children with little emotional support from her husband. After 30 years, the price she has paid for a life of loneliness and stress is painfully clear to everyone—with the possible exception of the one person she needs most.”

The aftermath has stayed in my mind ever since.

Several years later, although anxious that Mrs. Ford might have been upset by our piece, I asked Myra MacPherson to interview her again.

“The reason I’m seeing you,” Mrs. Ford told her, “is that 1978 article. I sent copies of it to every politician’s wife I know.”

Betty Ford was, and is, one of the most honest and caring women ever to live in the White House

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