After noticing the national flags flying on diplomats’ cars as they arrived at the White House as well as the American and Presidential flags displayed on the President’s car, Betty Ford had a question: “If the President gets flags, why shouldn’t the First Lady?”
In answer Dick Hartwig, then the head of Mrs. Ford’s Secret Service detail, and Rick Sardo, the White House Marine Corps aide, presented her with this specially designed flag on June 24, 1975. Sarah Brinkerhoff, a friend of Hartwig, handmade the pennant for the First Lady’s limousine.
Made of blue satin and trimmed in white lace with blue and red stars, the flag features a pair of red and white bloomers in the center as a play on Mrs. Ford’s maiden name, Bloomer. White text above the bloomers reads, “Don’t Tread on Me.” The letters “E.R.A.” below stand for the Equal Rights Amendment, an indication of Mrs. Ford’s strong support for the proposed amendment that would have given women equality under law through the United States Constitution.
Although it had been designed for her car Mrs. Ford kept the flag on display on her desk in the East Wing.
Images: Betty Ford’s "Bloomer" flag; Betty Ford proudly displays her flag with Dick Hartwig, Rick Sardo, White House photographer David Hume Kennerly, and East Wing staff members Kaye Pullen and Carolyn Porembka on June 24, 1975 (White House photograph A5197-15A).