National Affairs: A Dozen Who Made a Difference

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BETTY FORD: The Most Since Eleanor

"I'm the only First Lady to ever have a march organized against her," boasted Betty Ford, 57, after a chorus of black-clad women in front of the White House chanted their disapproval of her enthusiastic lobbying for the Equal Rights Amendment. Last year Betty became the most controversial—and popular—First Lady since Eleanor Roosevelt, speaking out on a variety of once delicate topics. Abortion: "I feel it is the right of a human being to make her own decisions." Marijuana: "It's the type of thing that young people have to experience." The prospect of a premarital affair for her teen-age daughter: "I wouldn't be surprised . . . But I'd want to know pretty much about the young man." Her candor is deliberate. Says she: "You're very foolish if you try to beat around the bush—you just meet yourself coming around the bush the other way."

Her matter-of-fact attitude toward her mastectomy saved lives by bringing breast cancer out of the shadows into the light of public discussion and understanding. WE LOVE BETTY placards sparkle in every crowd the President draws, and audiences break into applause at the mention of her name.


Betty Ford's "pillow talk"—lobbying her husband to name a woman to the Cabinet for the first time in 23 years—was one reason that Carla Hills, 41, became Secretary of Housing and Urban Development last March. As soon as the former Assistant Attorney General moved over to HUD, she began shaking up the bureaucracy with a speed and decisiveness that dazzled staff aides long used to a more lethargic pace. She found, for instance, that a rent-subsidy program for some 200,000 families had fallen so disastrously behind schedule that not a single family had been helped. Within three months, she managed to arrange subsidies for more than 90,000 families and then raised targets to 400,000 more for this year. Compulsively efficient, Hills has no patience for bureaucratic bungling: "I don't just dislike that sort of thing. I hate it!"

Hills, whose father was a building-supplies millionaire, spent her childhood attending private schools, horseback riding, playing tennis (she was captain of the Stanford women's tennis team) and living in the Beverly Hills mansion that was used as a set for Paramount's Sunset Boulevard. After graduating from Yale Law in 1958, she became an assistant U.S. attorney in Los Angeles, and later set up a law firm with her husband and friends in 1962. She also taught at U.C.L.A. Law, wrote a handbook on antitrust cases and was co-author of a textbook, Federal Civil Practice.

ELLA GRASSO: Gutsy Governor

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