A National Dance Day Post for Betty Ford
Dance played a significant role in Betty Ford’s early life. She began taking social-dance classes as a young girl before branching out into ballet, tap, and modern dance. At age 14 she began giving lessons on Saturday afternoons, teaching her students the foxtrot, the waltz, and the Big Apple.
During the summers of 1937 and 1938 Betty attended the Bennington School of Dance in Vermont, where she spent eight hours a day in classes and at rehearsals. She also was exposed to the work of and met choreographer Martha Graham. In 1939 Betty moved to New York City to study dance at Graham’s school. She became a member of the Martha Graham auxiliary performance troupe and performed at Carnegie Hall.
In 1941 Betty’s mother persuaded her to return to Grand Rapids. Although the move ended her professional aspirations she continued to teach modern dance classes and also started and choreographed for her own dance group. “Dance was my happiness,” she reflected in her memoirs.
Betty Bloomer (at left) in a class at the Bennington College Summer School of the Dance taught by Martha Hill (right center), 1937.
-from the Ford Library
Shortly before noon Gerald and Betty Ford made their way from the Vice President’s office in the Executive Office Building to the White House, where they joined Chief Justice Warren Burger in the Red Room. They then walked down the hall to the East Room where Gerald R. Ford would be sworn in as the 38th President of the United States. This memo is Mrs. Ford’s copy of the sequence of events for the ceremony.
Day 74: Eleanor Roosevelt and the United Nations
“We stand today at the threshold of a great event both in the life of the United Nations and in the life of mankind… . This declaration may well become the international Magna Carta of all men everywhere.”
-Eleanor Roosevelt, Speech to U.N. General Assembly on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, December 9, 1948
In December 1945, seeking to signal America’s commitment to the new United Nations organization— and cement his ties to a powerful Democratic party figure— President Harry Truman appointed Eleanor Roosevelt to America’s first delegation to the General Assembly.
Eleanor quickly became a major force on refugee and human rights issues. From 1946 to 1951 she chaired the U.N. Human Rights Commission leading the effort to draft the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. An able and determined negotiator, she clashed frequently with Soviet delegates over the definition of human liberties. In the process, she pushed the State Department to recognize that human rights are not only civil and political rights, but social and economic rights too. The Declaration was Eleanor’s proudest achievement at the U.N. It created the modern definition of human rights. Today it is the standard for establishing norms governing international behavior regarding the rights of individuals.
Eleanor’s duties as a delegate to the United Nations included many trips abroad to London, Paris and Geneva. Eleanor received several gifts during these trips including:
- A tortoise shell box presented to ER by an English woman as a token of appreciation in the winter of 1946.
- A color print of the painting by Frank Beresford of Eleanor Roosevelt addressing the United Nations in London, England, on February 12, 1946. Inscribed and presented to ER by the artist.
- A University of Lyon Academic Stole and Cap presented to ER in November 1948 when she was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws degree by the University of Lyon, France.
- A silver United Nations medallion presented to ER by the government of France.
- A watercolor of the Rue des Corps-Saints in Geneva’s Old Town by Harry Urban. Presented to ER by the artist in April 1951. The painting hung in the living room of ER’s NYC apartment until her death.
- A group of French commemorative medallions, including one for FDR, from the government of France given to ER during her 1951-52 trip.
- A lithograph of The American Church of Paris by Frank Milton Armington. Presented to ER by the church’s minister, Clayton E. Williams, in December 1951. The print hung in the living room of ER’s NYC apartment until her death.
Dancing in the Street
President Ford and Mrs. Ford as well as their hosts Romanian President and Mrs. Nicolae Ceausescu briefly joined in a folk dance in Victory Square in Bucharest on August 2, 1975.
The Fords had been on their way from the Otopeni Airport to the Spring Palace when they stopped for the dancing. Reporters traveling with the Presidential motorcade filed a pool report describing the event:
“At the far side of the Square the official party was swept up by a circle of folk dancers. The President and Mrs. Ford joined the circle and danced for a few minutes along with the Romanian President and his wife. In the second circle behind the principals, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger also joined a circle of dancers, and it was an unbelievable sight.”
-from the Ford Library
Day 67 - Eleanor’s Childhood Trips to Switzerland
Between 1899 and 1902, Eleanor spent three years at Allenswood, an elite boarding school for girls near London. During holidays she frequently travelled throughout England and continental Europe visiting friends and relatives, including a trip in 1900 to St. Moritz, Switzerland.
From Eleanor’s autobiography:
As the summer holidays came nearer my excitement grew for I was to travel to Saint-Moritz in Switzerland to spend my holiday with the Mortimers.
My first view of these beautiful mountains was breath-taking, for I had never seen any high mountains. I lived opposite the Catskill Mountains in summer and loved them, but how much more majestic were these great snow-capped peaks all around us as we drove into the Engadine. The little Swiss chalets, built into the sides of the hills and with places under them for all the livestock that did not actually wander into the kitchen, were picturesque, but strange to my eyes with their fretwork decoration…
The hotels [in Saint-Moritz] all bordered the lake, and the thing that I remember best about my time there was the fact that Tissie and I got up every morning early enough to walk to a little café that perched out above the lake on a promontory at one end. There we drank coffee or cocoa and ate rolls with fresh butter and honey, the sun just peeping out over the mountains and touching us with its warm rays. I can still remember how utterly contented I was!
Jacqueline Kennedy was born on this day in 1929, in Southhampton, New York. She was named Jacqueline Lee Bouvier. Her father, John, was a stockbroker on Wall Street whose family had come from France in the early 1800s. Her mother, Janet, had ancestors from Ireland and England.
As a child, Jackie loved to read. Before she started school, she had read all the children’s books on her bookshelves. Her heroes were Mowgli from Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book, Robin Hood, Little Lord Fauntleroy’s grandfather, Scarlett O’Hara from Gone With the Wind, and the poet Byron.
Photo: Jacqueline Bouvier, 1935. Photograph by David Berne in the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston.
Betty Ford Fields Questions on Women’s Rights, Premarital Sex, Breast Cancer, Drugs, and Anything Controversial — Today in 1975.
Morley Safer’s interviewed Betty Ford for the CBS news program “60 Minutes.” They taped the interview in the White House Solarium on July 21, 1975.
The “60 Minutes” segment marked Mrs. Ford’s first extensive, exclusive TV interview. Safer questioned her on a number of topics including her experiences as a politician’s wife, openness about her breast cancer, and support for women’s rights, particularly the Equal Rights Amendment.
Safer noted that unlike many political wives, for Betty Ford “the higher your husband’s gotten, the more really controversial things have been said.” This interview would be no exception. She called the Supreme Court’s ruling to legalize abortion “a great, great decision,” and discussed premarital sex and the possibility of her children using drugs.
After the segment aired on August 10 the White House received a deluge of negative comments regarding Mrs. Ford’s position on these issues. Public mail ran 2 to 1 against Mrs. Ford, although more positive comments came in over time. In the long run her approval rating increased after the controversy died down.
According to Sheila Weidenfeld, Mrs. Ford’s press secretary, the First Lady later sent Safer an autographed picture inscribed, “If there are any questions you forgot to ask – I’m grateful.”
-from the Ford Library
July 17, 1940: Eleanor Roosevelt Addresses the Democratic National Convention on Behalf of FDR
On this day in 1940, Eleanor Roosevelt addressed delegates at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago on behalf of her husband, making her the first candidate’s spouse ever to do so. After her husband gained the nomination for an unprecedented third term, he asked Eleanor to ease the delegates’ concerns over his choice of controversial vice presidential candidate, Henry Wallace. In her speech, she called for unified action during a time of war.
Eleanor remained a Democratic Party figure after her husband’s death and was the first former First Lady to address national political conventions (1948, 1956 and 1960).
Photo: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division
On this day, July 8, 1975, Ford Officially Announced his Candidacy. During the primaries, President Ford faced a strong challenge by Ronald Reagan for the Republican nomination. He prevailed, and chose Senator Robert Dole of Kansas as his running mate.
Democratic candidate Jimmy Carter presented another tough contest in the general election.
As November 2 neared polls showed that President Ford had succeeded in narrowing Carter’s large lead. The race had been neck and neck throughout the campaign but the election returns revealed that Carter pulled ahead to win with 297 electoral votes to Ford’s 241.
President Ford called his opponent to offer his congratulations and, since his voice was nearly gone, Betty Ford read his concession statement to the nation.
During the balance of his administration President Ford worked on the 1978 budget, delivered his final State of the Union speech, and strove to facilitate a smooth transition.
On January 20, 1977, President Carter began his inaugural address with a special recognition: “For myself and for our nation I want to thank my predecessor for all he has done to heal our land.”
Pictured: President and Mrs. Ford wave to the crowd at the Republican National Convention in Kansas City, Missouri, on August 19, 1976.
-from the Ford Library