By: Shannon Ralph
I figured, okay, I’ll move to the White House, do the best I can, and if they don’t like it, they can kick me out. But they can’t make me somebody I am not.—Betty Ford
Betty Ford died last week at the age of 93. Not your everyday, run-of-the-mill First Lady, Betty Ford was a free spirit and a stealthy feminist. A woman who once said, “The search for human freedom can never be complete without freedom for women.” She wasn’t afraid to speak her mind. She spoke out about breast cancer at a time when it was the disease no one talked about. Not only did she raise public awareness with her candor, but she changed the perception about a disease generations of women had lived with in secret shame. She marched with Gloria Steinem. She campaigned virulently for the Equal Rights Amendment. She publicly praised the Supreme Court for it’s Roe vs. Wade decision. She admitted to her addiction and founded a center to help others who battled those same demons. She named Eleanor Roosevelt among her heroes, admiring the previous First Lady’s belief that she had the right to express opinions independent of the President and her shaping the irst Lady Role to match her individualism.
And she was a Republican.
There was a time—not very long ago—when a high-profile Republican woman was not afraid to speak her mind, even if it meant bucking her own party and her President husband. In today’s political climate where the Tea Party (now being dubbed the “Hell No Caucus”) has hijacked the Republican party and are attempting to enforce their brand of extreme social and fiscal conservatism that is so far to the right of the average American citizen, we need women like Betty Ford. As Tea Partiers are ignoring the voices of reason within their own party, shutting down governments with a complete refusal to compromise (if you can’t govern—which by its very definition includes compromise—then you have no business being in government!), and attempting to return us to a time when human rights (women’s rights, gay rights, civil rights) were optional in this country, I think Betty Ford would have most certainly spoken the truth.
I admit to being a die-hard Democrat, but I admire Betty Ford for being a trail-blazer and a phenomenal women. I miss her brand of Republicanism. She was a woman who stood by her convictions. A woman we could all—Democrats and Republicans alike—learn something from.