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Betty Ford's Lasting Impact On Health, Women's Rights And More

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BETTY FORD
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Betty Ford will be remembered for the waves she created and the change she enacted as a pioneer in women's rights and health care.

The former Republican first lady who died last Friday at the age of 93 is credited with putting a face on then-taboo topics such as breast cancer and substance abuse and inspiring people to seek treatment.

Ford will be honoroed Tuesday at a memorial service in California.

Hillary Clinton, who will attend the memorial along with Michelle Obama and Nancy Reagan, told CNN about the personal mark Ford made on her.

"I remember well when my mother's best friend was dying of breast cancer, nobody talked about it in those days," Clinton told the network. "But Betty Ford made it acceptable" to discuss the issue in public.

Besides her work in the fields of health and women's rights, Ford also endeared the nation with her candor and ability to inspire.

The former first lady is often remembered for her candid quips that her daughter was probably sexually active, that she would have smoked pot at her kids' age, and that women should be held to the same draft standard as men. She also loudly supported abortion rights -- in opposition to her husband at the time, according to the Associated Press..

"Having babies is a blessing, not a duty," she had said.

Huffington Post looks back at her life's work that's had a lasting impact.

1974: Ford publicizes her diagnoses and treatment for breast cancer in Newsweek magazine. She helps raise awareness of screening and treatment options. A contemporary Newsweek article credits her for opening a door.

"First Lady Betty Ford saved the lives of millions of woman with a simple act: she spoke openly about the fact that she had breast cancer and encouraged women to get mammograms, then a relatively new test."

1975-1976: Ford resolutely supports the Equal Rights Amendment, making personal phone calls and lobbying state legislators to vote for passage. She urges attendees at the International Women's Year meeting in Cleveland, Ohio to work for passage of the Equal Rights Amendment. The Gerald Ford Foundation quotes her as saying, "Being a lady does not require silence."

1981-1982: Ford establishes her nonprofit chemical dependency clinic The Betty Ford Center in California after she had entered a hospital for treatment of addiction to alcohol and prescription medication three years before. She raised funds and helped develop treatment programs for the center.

1991: President George H.W. Bush awards Ford the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her contributions to health issues. "Her courage and candor have inspired millions of Americans to restore their health, protect their dignity, and shape full lives for themselves," the citation reads.

Around the Web

Betty Ford Center | Drug Treatment Center Alcohol Abuse ...

Betty Ford Biography :: National First Ladies' Library

Former first lady Betty Ford dies, age 93 - Yahoo! News

Former first lady Betty Ford dies at 93 - Yahoo! News

Former First Lady Betty Ford Dead at 93 - ABC News