As Jessica Grose of Slate points out, the death of Betty Ford was the nail in the proverbial coffin of activist first ladies.

Grose:

Mrs. Ford rarely hesitated to make public her views on touchy subjects. She held a White House news conference announcing her support of the Equal Rights Amendment; the mail response ran three to one against her. In 1975, appearing on “60 Minutes,” she said she “wouldn’t be surprised” if her daughter, Susan, had a premarital affair; the mail was four to one against her. Her husband jokingly told her later that the comment had cost him 20 million votes in the 1976 election, she said.

It is truly upsetting that an issue as universal as women’s right to choose, to vote, to live their own lives has been beaten down with a club by the Right and the centre-left

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