Betty Ford Biography

Portrait of Betty Bloomer in 1938
Betty Bloomer, ca. 1938

2:20pm Elizabeth Anne (Betty) Bloomer was born in Chicago on April 8, 1918 and raised in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She is the third child and only daughter of Hortense Neahr and William Stephenson Bloomer. Mr. Bloomer, a factory parts salesman, passed away in 1934, when Betty was sixteen years old. Mrs. Bloomer, remembered by her daughter as "strong and kind and principled", survived him until 1948.

At an early age, Betty Bloomer developed a passion for dance. Upon graduation from Central High School in 1936, she attended the Bennington School of Dance, in Vermont, for two summers. While studying there she met and began her long association with choreographer Martha Graham. She continued her studies with Ms. Graham in New York City, becoming a member of her Auxiliary Performance Troupe and performing at Carnegie Hall.

Close family ties took Betty Bloomer back to Grand Rapids in 1941. She became fashion coordinator for Herpolsheimer's, a locally prominent department store, and continued her interest in dance, forming her own performance group. She also worked with handicapped children, helping them experience the joy of rhythm and movement in dance. In 1942 she married salesman William Warren. The union did not last, and they divorced amicably several years later.

Portrait of Betty Bloomer in 1938
Gerald and Betty Ford wedding day, October 15, 1948

In 1947 a friend introduced her to Gerald R. Ford, Jr., a young lawyer who had served as Navy lieutenant during World War II. By February 1948 the couple was engaged to be married. Their wedding took place on October 15, 1948, two weeks before Mr. Ford was elected to his first term in Congress. They moved to Washington, D.C. where he served as member of the House of Representatives for 25 years.

Mrs. Ford quickly assumed the tasks of a congressional spouse of the era, spending much of her time in volunteer work with the Congressional Wives Club, the 81st Congress Club, and the National Federation of Republican Women. She also provided tours of the Capitol to visiting constituents from Michigan.

The Fords became the parents of four children: Michael Gerald, born March 14, 1950; John Gardner, born March 16, 1952; Steven Meigs, born May 19, 1956; and Susan Elizabeth, born July 6, 1957. Clara Powell, hired in 1949 to assist in housekeeping, became an extended family member over the next twenty years.

While in Congress, the Fords lived in Alexandria, Virginia. There, in addition to her congressional spouse activities, Mrs. Ford supervised the home, did the cooking, undertook volunteer work, and taught Sunday school at Emmanual-on-the-Hill Episcopal Church. She was active in PTA and devoted much time to supporting her children’s pursuits in scouting, baseball, football, and the many other activities of a young growing family.