The widow of 38th President Gerald Ford passed away peacefully on Friday at Rancho Mirage, California, with loved ones by her side.
"She was a powerful advocate for women's health and women's rights," President Barack Obama stated yesterday. "After leaving the White House, Mrs Ford helped reduce the social stigma surrounding addiction and inspired thousands to seek much-needed treatment."
During her lifetime, Ford was praised for raising awareness of breast cancer following her mastectomy in 1974 and was a passionate supporter of the Equal Rights Amendment.
She remained popular with the American public during her time in the White House between 1974 and 1977, despite her liberal views on controversial issues such as feminism, abortion and gun control.
Upon leaving office, Ford was inspired to establish the Betty Ford Clinic for substance abuse and addiction following her own battle with alcoholism and a chemical dependency. The centre was founded in 1982 and Ford remained chairwoman of its board of directors until 2005.
"No one confronted life's struggles with more fortitude or honesty, and as a result, we all learned from the challenges she faced," said former President George H.W. Bush. "The Betty Ford Centre, which already has helped change the lives of thousands of people, will be her lasting legacy of care and concern."
Also paying tribute to Ford was former first lady Nancy Reagan, who said in a statement: "She has been an inspiration to so many through her efforts to educate women about breast cancer and her wonderful work at the Betty Ford Centre.
"She was Jerry Ford's strength through some very difficult days in our country's history, and I admired her courage in facing and sharing her personal struggles with all of us."
Former California first lady Maria Shriver told People: "America fought her struggles with her and learned alongside her. She was brave, outspoken and kind."