Friday, November 30, 2012

Pat Nixon and Betty Ford

Born:   Ely, Nevada
16 March, 1912
*Although she was born as Thelma Catherine Ryan Nixon, she assumed the name of "Patricia," or "Pat" upon the death of her father; of Irish parentage, he had first called her "St. Patrick's babe in the morn," because she was born at night, just hours before St. Patrick's Day

  Marriage:21 June, 1940 at Mission Inn, Riverside, California to Richard Milhous Nixon (born 13 January 1913, Yorba Linda, California, lawyer, died 23 April, 1994, New York, New York); they had met while both were performing in a production of The Dark Tower staged by the Whittier Community Players, a local theater group; after a honeymoon to Laredo and Mexico City, Mexico, they settled in an apartment in Whittier.

Presidential Campaign and Inauguration:Vice President Nixon's 1960 race for the presidency drew upon Pat Nixon's public recognition. An entire ad campaign was built around the slogan of "Pat For First Lady," a message carried on buttons, bumper stickers and antenna, all marketed to the demographic of housewives - like Pat Nixon - who were heavily courted by the Republican Party during the 1950's. She also publicly advocated that women should become more involved in the political process as volunteers for their parties. The press briefly attempted to create a "race" for First Lady between her and the Democratic candidate's wife Jacqueline Kennedy based on their clothing costs and styles.
The razor-thin loss for her husband and the disputed win by Kennedy permanently dimmed Pat Nixon's view of politics. Thus she was less eager when Nixon ran again in 1968. Her responses to the media were more rote and controlled as a means of protecting her privacy. Her role in the President's re-election campaign was more enthused as she made thousands of appearances on her own by jet plane, often flying from one corner of the nation to the other in a day. She addressed controversial and substantive questions when the press posed them to her.  

First Lady:20 January 1969 - 9 August, 1974
If the public expects a First Lady to reflect the "average" American woman, Pat Nixon faced a challenge when she assumed the post in 1969 - a time when the role of women in American society was being dramatically redefined in both perception and reality. Pat Nixon became the first incumbent First Lady to endorse the Equal Rights Amendment. She was the first to disclose publicly her pro-choice view on abortion in reaction to questions on the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision. Before she even began unrelentingly to lobby her husband to name a woman to the Supreme Court, she called for such an appointment publicly. She even became the first First Lady to appear publicly in pants and model them for a national magazine, reflecting the radical change in women's attire that critics derided as masculine. Still, Pat Nixon valued her identity as a middle-class homemaker, supportive wife and devoted mother and was often depicted as the quintessential traditionalist in relief to the popular persona of the "liberated woman."

8 April 1918
Chicago, Illinois

Husband and Marriage:
first marriage
24 years old, to William Gustavas Warren, insurance and furniture salesman, (born March 1917, Sullivan County, Missouri) on 23 April 1942, Grand Rapids, Michigan; divorced 15 December 1947. Much of the Bloomer-Warren marriage was spent in a variety of cities, occurring during and after World War II. Warren suffered from diabetes and was ineligible for the draft. Just as she was intending to file for divorce from Warren, she received word that he had suffered a coma in Boston, Massachusetts, where he was working at the time. Living there to care for him as he began to recover, the couple would then relocate to his parents’ home in Grand Rapids. For two years, Betty Warren would live in the home of her in-laws in an upstairs room while her semi-invalid husband was cared for on a lower floor. Once he was able to recover and return to full employment, the divorce proceeded, granted to her on the grounds of “extensive repeated cruelty.” In a 1987 interview, Mrs. Ford reflected that the period would prove an instructive one for her as it was her first full recognition of the inequitable salaries between the genders who performed the same work (she had continued to work and support him through his convalescence) and the unfair burdens that could then legally be placed upon a wife supporting her spouse. Warren was also alcoholic, a reality that only later Betty Ford confronted while seeking her own  recovery from the disease later in life.
*Betty Ford is the third presidential wife whose first marriage had ended in divorce, following Rachel Donelson Jackson’s 1793 divorce from Lewis Robards, and Florence Kling Harding’s 1886 divorce from Henry DeWolfe.
second marriage
30 years old to Gerald Rudolph. Ford, Jr., lawyer and congressional candidate (born as Leslie Lynch King, Jr. after his birth father, but renamed after his adoptive father, his mother’s second husband) 14 July 1913, Omaha, Nebraska, died 26 December 2006,* Rancho Mirage, California) on 15, October 1948,  Grand Rapids, Michigan. Before her divorce was finalized, in August of 1947, mutual friends introduced Betty Warren Bloomer to Gerald Ford.  “Jerry” was a fellow Grand Rapids resident, a young attorney who had served in the U.S. Navy during World War II, and who had achieved fame in college football. Once she was single they began dating. According to Mrs. Ford, he proposed marriage to her that fall (he said he did so in February of 1948) but told her they could not marry until the fall because he had a secret regarding something he “had to do first.” She accepted, only to soon be told by him that, he was planning to run for the Republican nomination for the local seat to the U.S. Congress, and then the general election. Ford had practical concerns that the morally conservative district might not support his marriage to a divorced woman who had a career in modern dance. The wedding was announced in June of that year – after he had won the Republican nomination. They married just two weeks before Election Day in 1948. Ford had to exit the rehearsal dinner early in order to deliver a previously scheduled campaign speech. When he arrived late at the church for the wedding ceremony, right from a campaign rally, Ford was wearing dusty shoes in the color brown, which didn’t match his wedding suit. She wore a simple dress that cost fifty dollars. The honeymoon was spent attending a campaign rally, University of Michigan football game and a speech given by the 1948 Republican presidential candidate Thomas Dewey. On 2 November 1948, Ford was elected to the first of twelve consecutive terms as a U.S. Congressman.
*To date, Gerald Ford lived longer than any U.S. President, dying at the age of 93 years old.

Campaign and Inauguration:
With the resignation of Richard Nixon from the presidency, Gerald Ford was sworn in as Chief Executive in the East Room of the White House on 9 August 1974, his wife holding the Bible as he repeated the oath. In his Inaugural Address, Ford became the first president to ever make reference to his wife: I am indebted to no man and only one woman, my dear wife, Betty, as I begin this very difficult job."
Betty Ford became First Lady under the unique circumstances in presidential history. She was the wife of a Vice President who had not been elected but rather appointed to the position when his incumbent-predecessor resigned, who then inherited the presidency upon the resignation of the incumbent President. Thus she did not endure an initial presidential campaign for her husband’s presidency or vice-presidency, nor a traditional inauguration which followed a presidential election.

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