1974 September 6

First Lady Betty Ford Supports Equal Rights Amendment


First Lady Betty Ford on this day said she would campaign on behalf of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), designed to grant equality to women. The ERA had been passed by Congress and sent to the states for ratification on March 22, 1972. Her comments came exactly one month after her husband Gerald Ford became president, following the resignation of Richard Nixon, on August 9, 1974. Her promise to campaign for the ERA surprised most political observers, since First Ladies rarely involve themselves directly in contentious political issues.

Throughout her husband’s term as president, Betty Ford established a reputation as an independent thinking and outspoken First Lady. She endorsed equality for woman and African-Americans on September 14, 1975, and on May 7, 1975, she claimed credit for her husband’s appointment of a woman to the Cabinet.

In 1991 President George H. W. Bush awarded Betty Ford the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Learn more: Betty Ford, The Times of My Life (1978)

Watch a documentary on Betty Ford: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rc_KY9-5Qzs

Read: Mary Frances Berry, Why ERA Failed: Politics, Women’s Rights, and the Amending Process of the Constitution (1988)

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