1. Education

Betty Ford and the Equal Rights Amendment

How the First Lady Supported the ERA

By

Betty Ford

Betty Ford, about 1975

Getty Images / Hulton Archive

Feminists in the United States fought for ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment throughout the 1970s. First Lady Betty Ford supported the ERA during the middle of the decade.

Betty Ford, wife of President Gerald Ford, was a popular figure during the Fords' time in the White House, which lasted from Richard Nixon's 1974 resignation to Jimmy Carter's 1977 inauguration. Betty Ford supported the ERA by speaking out about women’s issues, lobbying and making public appearances.  

Here are a few highlights of Betty Ford’s support for the ERA:

  • Lobbying for State Ratification
    Although sometimes unsuccessful, Betty Ford corresponded with legislators in states that had not yet ratified the ERA, encouraging them to support the amendment. She was thanked by female legislators and groups of Republican women in those states.
  • Working with the Secret Service
    Betty Ford talked to her Secret Service agents about equality for women, and she joked that her car should have a flag just as the president’s car did.  As a fun gift, her agents presented her with a homemade flag featuring the slogan “Don’t Tread on Me,” bloomers (to honor her maiden name, Bloomer) and the letters “E.R.A.” at the bottom.
  • “I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar”
    Betty Ford appeared at an ERA support concert with Helen Reddy, whose famous song “I Am Woman” was a #1 hit.

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