Barbara Bush’s name is etched in history as the second woman in the world to be both mother and wife to past US Presidents (George Bush- Snr & Jnr). She has passed away at the age of 92 and her death was announced in the early hours of today. The world celebrates the passing of an icon and we do too.
Here are a few things to know about her:
Barbara Bush was born Barbara Pierce on June 8, 1925, in New York City. Her mother, Pauline Pierce, was the daughter of an Ohio Supreme Court justice and dedicated to conservation efforts as a chairwoman of the Garden Club of America.
Barbara attended Rye Country Day School from 1931 to 1937 and later the boarding school Ashley Hall in Charleston, South Carolina, from 1940 to 1943. As a youth, she was athletic and enjoyed swimming, tennis, and bike riding. Her interest in reading began early in life; she recalled gathering and reading with her family during the evenings.
When Pierce was 16 and on Christmas vacation, she met George Bush at a dance; he was a student at Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts. After 18 months, the two became engaged to be married, just before he went off to World War II as a Navy torpedo bomber pilot.
He named three of his planes after her: Barbara, Barbara II, and Barbara III. When he returned on leave, she had dropped out of Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts; two weeks later, on January 6, 1945, they were married at the First Presbyterian Church in Rye, New York, with the reception being held at The Apawamis Club.
Life As the first lady
Family literacy was Barbara Bush’s cause as First Lady, and she called it “the most important issue we have”. She became involved with many literacy organizations, served on literacy committees and chaired many reading organizations.
Eventually, she helped develop the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy. She continued to be dedicated to eliminating the generational cycle of illiteracy in America by supporting programs where parents and their young children are able to learn together.
During the early 1980s, after statistics had shown that foreign-born immigrants from Latin America had nearly quintupled just since 1960, statistics showed that 35 million adults could not read above the eighth-grade level and that 23 million were not able to read beyond a fourth-grade level.
She was active in the White House Historical Association and worked to revitalize the White House Preservation Fund, which she renamed the White House Endowment Trust.
The trust raises funds for the ongoing refurbishment and restoration of the White House. She met her goal of raising $25 million towards the endowment. The White House residence staff generally found Barbara Bush to be the friendliest and most easygoing of the First Ladies with whom they dealt.
Life as the second lady
Barbara Bush’s eight years as Second Lady allowed her to become a common household name. After her son Neil was diagnosed with dyslexia, she took an interest in literacy issues and began working with several different literacy organizations.
She spent much time researching and learning about the factors that contributed to illiteracy – she believed homelessness was also connected to illiteracy – and the efforts underway to combat both.
She travelled around the country and the world, either with the vice president on official trips or by herself. In 1984, she wrote a children’s book, C. Fred’s Story, which dealt with her family as told from the point of view of her dog, C. Fred.
She donated all proceeds from the book to literacy charities. By then comfortable speaking in front of groups, she routinely spoke to promote issues that she believed in, and she became famous for expressing a sense of humour and self-deprecating wit.
In 1988, Vice President Bush announced his candidacy for President to succeed Reagan. By this time Barbara had experienced two presidential campaigns but broke new ground by becoming the second candidate’s spouse to speak at the national party convention that nominated her husband (after Eleanor Roosevelt in 1940).
She promised voters that she would be a traditional first lady and campaigned actively for her husband. The campaign at times focused on the large Bush family, and contrasted her with the First Lady, Nancy Reagan, by highlighting her interest in domestic staples such as church, gardening, and time spent with family while placing less emphasis on style sense and fashion; she drew attention to both her famous white hair and disinterest in wearing designer clothes.
Campaigning for her son to be president
Bush campaigned for her son, George W. Bush, after he announced his presidential campaign in June 1999. Throughout the country, she met with women in support of his campaign but remained doubtful of his chances of winning.
The resentment toward the campaign continued with her rejecting any criticism of her son said in her presence and refused to watch any debates, a contrast to her husband’s willingness to listen and his watching of every debate, creating friction between the couple.
Several schools have been named for her: three primary schools and two middle schools in Texas and an elementary school in Mesa, Arizona. Also named for her is the Barbara Bush Library in Harris County, Texas, and the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital at Maine Medical Center in Portland, Maine. She served on the Boards of AmeriCares and the Mayo Clinic and headed the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy.
On March 18, 2003 — two days before the beginning of the 2003 invasion of Iraq — her son George W. Bush was President.
Awards and legacy
In 1995, Bush received the Award for Greatest Public Service Benefiting the Disadvantaged, an award is given out annually by Jefferson Awards. In 1997, she was the recipient of The Miss America Woman of Achievement Award for her work with literacy programs.
In 2016, she received honorary membership in Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Houston chapter.
Barbara Bush Elementary School in the Parkway Villages neighbourhood in Houston, operated by the Houston Independent School District, is named after her.
Illness and death
Bush suffered from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), congestive heart failure, and Graves’ disease. In April 2018, the Bush family released a statement regarding Bush’s “failing health” and how she had chosen to be at home with family rather than seek further treatment. According to family spokesman Jim McGrath, Bush’s decision came as a result of “a series of recent hospitalizations”.
It was announced on April 15, 2018, that Bush would no longer seek medical treatment and had instead chosen the option of “comfort care”. Bush died in her Houston home of complications from COPD at the age of 92 on April 17, 2018.