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Barbara Bush

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Title: Barbara Bush  
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Barbara Bush

Barbara Bush
Barbara Bush in 1989
First Lady of the United States
In role
January 20, 1989 – January 20, 1993
Preceded by Nancy Reagan
Succeeded by Hillary Clinton
Second Lady of the United States
In role
January 20, 1981 – January 20, 1989
Preceded by Joan Mondale
Succeeded by Marilyn Quayle
Personal details
Born Barbara Pierce
(1925-06-08) June 8, 1925
Queens, New York City, New York
Spouse(s) George H. W. Bush
(m. 1945–present)
Relations Marvin Pierce (father)
Scott Pierce (brother)
Children George W.
Residence Houston, Texas
Alma mater Smith College (attended)
Occupation former US First Lady
Religion Episcopalian

Barbara Pierce Bush (born June 8, 1925) is the wife of the Jeb Bush. Previously she had served as Second Lady of the United States from 1981 to 1989.

Barbara Pierce was born in World War II. They had six children together. The Bush family soon moved to Midland, Texas; as George Bush entered political life, Barbara raised their children.

As wife of the Vice President and then President, Barbara Bush has supported and worked to advance the cause of universal literacy. She founded the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy while First Lady. Since leaving the White House, she has continued to advance this cause.


  • Early life 1
  • Marriage and family 2
  • Texas years 3
  • A couple on the move 4
  • Second Lady of the United States 5
  • First Lady of the United States 6
  • Life after the White House 7
  • Awards 8
  • See also 9
  • Footnotes 10
  • References 11
  • Further reading 12
  • External links 13

Early life

Barbara Pierce was born at Booth Memorial Hospital in the borough of Manhattan, in New York City, and raised in the suburban town of Rye, New York.[1] She was the third child of Pauline (née Robinson; 1896–1949) and her husband Marvin Pierce (1893–1969), who later became president of McCall Corporation, the publisher of the popular women's magazines Redbook and McCall's. Her siblings include Martha Pierce Rafferty (1920–1999); James Pierce (1921–1993), and Scott Pierce (born 1930). Her ancestor Thomas Pierce, an early New England colonist, was also an ancestor of Franklin Pierce, the 14th president of the United States. She is the fourth cousin, four times removed, and the second cousin, five times removed, of President Franklin Pierce.[2]

Barbara attended Rye Country Day School from 1931 to 1937 and later boarding school at Ashley Hall in Charleston, South Carolina from 1940 to 1943.[1] She was athletic as a youth and enjoyed swimming, tennis, and bike-riding.[1] Her interest in reading began early in her life; she recalls gathering with her family during the evenings and reading together.[1]

Marriage and family

Barbara Bush, center, surrounded by her family, early 1960s

She met George Herbert Walker Bush, a student at Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts at age 16 during a dance over Christmas vacation.[3] After a year-and-a-half, 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;[1] two weeks later, on January 6, 1945, they were married at the First Presbyterian Church in Rye, New York.[1]

For the first eight months of their marriage, the Bushes moved around the Eastern United States, to places including

Honorary titles
Preceded by
Joan Mondale
Second Lady of the United States
Succeeded by
Marilyn Quayle
Preceded by
Nancy Reagan
First Lady of the United States
Succeeded by
Hillary Clinton
  • Official White House biography of Barbara Bush
  • Bush, George H. W. and Barbara Bush with Jim McGrath. George H. W. Bush and Barbara Bush Oral History, Houston Oral History Project, July 2009.
  • Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy
  • Appearances on C-SPAN

External links

  • Bush, Barbara. "BARBARA BUSH: A MEMOIR/Life after White House is fun and different". Los Angeles Times. Syndicate at the Houston Chronicle. Saturday October 1, 1994. Houston Section, p. 5.
  • Williams, Marjorie. "Barbara's Backlash". Vanity Fair. August 1992.

Further reading

  • Brower, Kate Andersen (2015). The Residence: Inside the Private World of The White House. New York: Harper.  
  • Killian, Pamela (2003). Barbara Bush: Matriarch of a Dynasty. St. Martin's Griffin.  
  • Bush, Barbara (2004). Reflections: Life After the White House. Scribner.  
  • Bush, Barbara. Barbara Bush: A Memoir, New York:Scribner, 1994. ISBN 978-0-02-519635-3


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w "First Lady Biography: Barbara Bush".  
  2. ^ "Correction Barbara Pierce Bush Genealogy". Archived from the original on April 24, 2007. Retrieved November 17, 2011. 
  3. ^ Bush, Barbara (1994), p. 16
  4. ^ W. Speers (May 22, 1990). "Barbara Bush: I Overcame Depression".  
  5. ^ a b c "Barbara Bush Biography".  
  6. ^ Simpson’s Contemporary Quotations, compiled by James B. Simpson. 1988.. Bartleby
  7. ^ "White House biography of Barbara Bush". White House. Archived from the original on January 22, 2009. Retrieved November 17, 2011. 
  8. ^ Lamar Brantley. "Barbara Bush as a Role Model". Rolemodel. Archived from the original on July 5, 2007. Retrieved November 17, 2011. 
  9. ^ Brower, Kate Andersen (2015), pp. 46, 75, 117–122, 136
  10. ^ "Arts & Scholars". The Trident (Winter 2013): 19.
  11. ^ Bush, Barbara (1994), pp. 264-265.
  12. ^ Michael E. Eidenmuller (2009-02-13). "Top 100 Speeches of the 20th Century by Rank". American Rhetoric. Retrieved 2015-10-27. 
  13. ^ John M. Broder (August 14, 1992). "Barbara Bush Calls Abortion `Personal Choice".  
  14. ^ Harnden, Toby (November 8, 2010). "George W Bush became opposed to abortion when mother showed him dead foetus in jar". The Daily Telegraph (London). Archived from the original on November 11, 2010. 
  15. ^ Altman, Lawrence K. (May 29, 1991). "Clue to Bushes' Disease Sought in Water". The New York Times. Archived from the original on November 10, 2012. Retrieved November 17, 2011. 
  16. ^ Killian, pp. 3-4.
  17. ^ Bush, Barbara (2004), pp. 5-7.
  18. ^ Bush, Barbara (2004), p. 9.
  19. ^ Bush, Barbara (2004), p. 16.
  20. ^ Bush, Barbara (2004), pp. 69-70.
  21. ^ Bush, Barbara. (2004), p. 72.
  22. ^ Bush, Barbara (2004), p. 79.
  23. ^ Bush, Barbara (2004), pp. 85-86.
  24. ^ Bush, Barbara (2004), pp. 91-92.
  25. ^ Barbara Bush Branch Library @ Cypress Creek.
  26. ^ "Barbara Bush 'Beautiful Mind' Quote". Snopes. Retrieved November 17, 2011. 
  27. ^ "Barbara Bush: Things Working Out 'Very Well' for Poor Evacuees from New Orleans".  
  28. ^ "Marketplace".   Audio clip.
  29. ^ "Barbara Bush comments on survivors spark outrage".  
  30. ^ Cynthia Leonor Garza, Copyright 2006 Houston Chronicle (March 23, 2006). "Katrina funds earmarked to pay for Neil Bush's software program". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved November 17, 2011. 
  31. ^
  32. ^ "Former First Lady Barbara Bush In Hospital".  
  33. ^ Former first lady Barbara Bush released from hospital. CNN (2009-03-13)
  34. ^
  35. ^ Snyder, Whitney (November 20, 2010). "Barbara Bush Jabs Sarah Palin: 'I Hope She Stays' In Alaska (VIDEO)". The Huffington Post. Retrieved November 17, 2011. 
  36. ^ "44 – Palin fires back at 'blue-blood' Barbara Bush". Voices.washingtonpost. November 24, 2010. Retrieved November 17, 2011. 
  37. ^ "'"Former first lady Barbara Bush hospitalized for 'respiratory related issue.  
  38. ^ Hamedy, Sama (January 4, 2014). "Former First Lady Barbara Bush released from Houston hospital". Los Angeles Times. 
  39. ^ Jefferson Awards
  40. ^ "Live presentation of the 77th annual Miss America Pageant". Turner Classic Movies. 1997. Retrieved January 7, 2014. 


See also

In 1995, Bush received the Award for Greatest Public Service Benefiting the Disadvantaged, an award given out annually by Jefferson Awards.[39] In 1997, she was the recipient of The Miss America Woman of Achievement Award for her work with literacy programs.[40]


On December 31, 2013, Bush was hospitalized at [38]

In a November 2010 interview with Larry King, Bush was asked about former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. Bush remarked, "I sat next to her once, thought she was beautiful, and I think she's very happy in Alaska, and I hope she'll stay there."[35] Palin responded, "I don't want to, sort of, concede that we have to get used to this kind of thing, because I think the majority of Americans don't want to put up with the blue-bloods – and I say it with all due respect, because I love the Bushes – but, the blue-bloods, who want to pick and choose their winners, instead of allowing competition to pick and choose the winners."[36]

In September 2010, in partnership with the University of New England, Barbara and George Bush established the George and Barbara Bush Distinguished Lecture Series,[34] an annual event honoring the legacy of Barbara and George Bush as political and community leaders.

Bush underwent aortic valve replacement surgery on March 4, 2009; she was released from the hospital on March 13, 2009.[33]

In November 2008 Bush was hospitalized for abdominal pains. On November 25, a dime-sized hole in her small intestine, that was caused by an ulcer, was closed by surgeons. She was released December 2, 2008 and was reported to be doing well.[32]

On October 3, 2008, Barbara Bush and her husband George opened the George and Barbara Bush Center[31] on the Texas A&M University. Particular attention is given to the family’s New England heritage and to Barbara Bush’s love for Maine.

Former First Lady Mrs. Barbara Bush at the LBJ Presidential Library in 2012.

The remarks generated controversy.[29] In 2006, it was revealed that Barbara Bush donated an undisclosed amount of money to the Bush–Clinton Katrina Fund on the condition that the charity do business with an educational software company owned by her son Neil Bush.[30]

Almost everyone I've talked to says, 'We're gonna move to Houston.' What I'm hearing, which is sort of scary, is they all want to stay in Texas... Everybody is so overwhelmed by the hospitality, and so many of the people in the arenas here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this (as she chuckles slightly) is working very well for them.[27][28]

While visiting a Houston relief center for people displaced by Hurricane Katrina, Bush told the radio program Marketplace,

George and Barbara Bush attend the christening ceremony for the George H.W. BushUSS , October 2006
I watch none. He [former President George H. W. Bush] sits and listens and I read books, because I know perfectly well that, don't take offense, that 90 percent of what I hear on television is supposition, when we're talking about the news. And he's not, not as understanding of my pettiness about that. But why should we hear about body bags and deaths, and how many, what day it's gonna happen, and how many this or that or what do you suppose? Or, I mean, it's not relevant. So, why should I waste my beautiful mind on something like that, and watch him suffer.[26]

On March 18, 2003, two days before the beginning of the ABC's Good Morning America asked her about her family's television viewing habits; she replied:

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[25] and the Barbara Bush Children's Hospital at Maine Medical Center in Portland, Maine. She serves on the Boards of AmeriCares and the Mayo Clinic, and heads the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy.

On April 19, 1995, the Tulsa, Oklahoma. Barbara was supposed to speak at a Junior League event in the noon and accompany her husband at the Salvation Army annual dinner. The Bushes debated whether or not they should continue with their plans due to the bombing, ultimately deciding to go because "both groups help people in need."[22] On September 3, 1995, the Bushes went to Vietnam. This was "unbelievable" to Barbara because she "never expected to set foot in what had been North Vietnam." The Bushes first went to Hanoi and then to Ho Chi Minh City. The Bushes met with President Lê Đức Anh and party secretary Đỗ Mười.[23] On September 28, 1995, the Bushes drove to Portland, Maine for the announcement of the Barbara Bush Children's Hospital. Bush said her life was being stretched, adding, "Long after I am gone this hospital will be there with my name." The Bushes visited the children there, and Mrs. Bush started to recall her daughter Robin after seeing them. The Bushes returned home early that month.[24]

Since leaving the White House, she and her husband reside in the [21]

Life after the White House

Because of the remarkable coincidence of three cases of auto-immune disease in one household, the Secret Service tested the water in the White House, at Camp David, at the Vice President's residence, and at Walker's Point (Bush's home in Maine) for lithium and iodine, two substances "known to cause thyroid problems". Bush was more popular than her immediate predecessor Nancy Reagan and successor Hillary Clinton because she carefully "avoided controversy," and took very few positions publicly on issues.[16]

. lupus, auto-immune disease, came down with Graves' disease, too, although there are reports that she had a different Millie The Bush dog, [15] Bush disclosed she was suffering from an overactive

During her husband's 1992 presidential campaign, Barbara Bush stated that abortion and homosexuality are personal matters and argued that the Republican Party platform should not take a stand on it, saying that "The personal things should be left out of, in my opinion, platforms and conventions." Her personal views on abortion were not known, although her friends reported at that time that she "privately supported abortion rights."[13] She explained, "I hate abortions, but I just could not make that choice for someone else."[14]

Her Wellesley College commencement address, given in 1990, was listed as #45 in American Rhetoric's Top 100 Speeches of the 20th Century (listed by rank).[12]

She was struck everyday by "how much things had changed" for her and her husband since becoming President and First Lady. As opposed to a limousine, Bush tried to use a smaller car and travel by train and commercial airplane for out-of-town trips. However, Bush was partially opposed in her wishes by the heads of her Secret Service detail, who agreed to the small car but did not approve to the commercial traveling given the number of threats to the First Lady being higher than that of the vice president. Despite their opposition, what put Bush most off was the fact that her flights would be delayed while agents checked out the planes and luggage. The plane Bush traveled on was nicknamed "Bright Star," in honor of the leukemia foundation her husband and Hugh Liedtke founded after her daughter Robin died.[11]

Bush was known for her affection for her pet English Springer Spaniel Millie and wrote a child's book about Millie's new litter of puppies. She even included Millie in her official white house portrait, painted by Candace Whittemore Lovely.[10] Barbara Bush became the first U.S. First Lady to become a recipient of the Henry G. Freeman Jr. Pin Money Fund, receiving $36,000, most of which she gave to favorite charities.

She was also active with 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 easy to get along with of the First Ladies they would deal with.[9]

Barbara Bush's cause as First Lady was family literacy, as it was when she was Second Lady, calling it "the most important issue we have".[7] 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.[8] She is 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. Mrs. Bush appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show to discuss the situation and spoke regularly on Mrs. Bush's Story Time, a national radio program that stressed the importance of reading aloud to children.[1] Today, her children Jeb Bush and Doro Bush Koch serve as co-chairs of the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy. Mrs. Bush remains active in the foundation and serves as honorary chair.

Bush with children and White House staff in the China Room. The first lady is attempting to make a paw print of her pet Millie for a holiday card.

First Lady of the United States

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).[1] She promised voters that she would be a traditional first lady and campaigned actively for her husband.[5] 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.[1] She generally avoided discussion of political issues during the campaign, particularly those on which she and her husband differed, and those closely involved with the campaign have reported that she was actively involved in campaign strategy.[1] Bush was elected in November 1988 and sworn in on January 20, 1989 – and the nation had a new first lady.

Barbara Bush's eight years as homelessness was also connected to illiteracy[5] – and the efforts underway to combat both.[1] She traveled around the country and the world, both with the Vice President on official trips and by herself. In 1984 she wrote a children's book about her family told from the point of view of her dog C. Fred entitled C. Fred's Story. She donated all proceeds from the book to literacy charities.[5] Now comfortable speaking in front of groups, she routinely spoke to promote issues she believed in and became famous for expressing a sense of humor and self-deprecating wit.[1] During the 1984 presidential campaign, Barbara made headlines when she told the press that she could not say on television what she thought of Vice-Presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro, but "it rhymes with rich".[6] She later apologized to Ferraro.

Second Lady of the United States

Barbara Bush defended her husband's experience and personal qualities when he announced his candidacy for President of the United States in 1980. She caused a stir when she said that she supported ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment and was pro-choice on abortion.[1] This placed her slightly at odds with the conservative-wing of the Republican party, led by California Governor Ronald Reagan; Reagan would receive the presidential nomination over her husband. Reagan, however, chose Bush to be his running mate and the team was elected in 1980.

Barbara Bush joins her husband, the Vice President, on a trip to Great Britain to meet with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and her husband Denis, 1984

Nixon's successor, Gerald R. Ford, appointed Bush head of the U.S. Liaison Office in the Peoples Republic of China in 1974, and thus the Bushes moved internationally. Barbara enjoyed her time spent in China, and often rode bicycles with her husband to explore the cities and regions that few Americans had traveled to.[1] Just three years later Bush was called back to the U.S. to serve as Director of Central Intelligence during a crucial time of legal uncertainty for the agency. Her husband was not allowed to share pertinent aspects of his job with Barbara, as they were classified; the ensuing sense of isolation, coupled with her perception that she was not achieving her goals while other women of her time were, plunged her into a depression.[1][4] She did not seek professional help and instead began delivering speeches and presentations about her time spent in the closed-off China and began volunteering at a hospice.[1]

As the wife of a Congressman, Barbara immersed herself in projects that piqued her interest, included various charities and Republican women's' groups in Washington, D.C.[1] Though her husband lost a second bid for the Senate in 1970, President Richard Nixon appointed him the United States Ambassador to the United Nations, which enabled Barbara to begin forming relationships in New York with prominent diplomats.[1] As the Watergate scandal heated up in 1973, Nixon asked Bush to become Chairman of the Republican National Committee; Barbara advised her husband to reject the offer because of the harsh political climate,[1] but he accepted anyway.

Bush would be elected as a U.S. Representative in Congress from Texas two years later in 1966; while her husband campaigned, Barbara raised her children, occasionally joining him on the trail. Over the ensuing years, George Bush would be elected or appointed to several different positions in the U.S. Congress or the Executive branch, or government-related posts, and Barbara Bush would accompany him every step of the way.

A couple on the move

[1] While in Texas, in 1959, George Bush was elected Harris County Republican Party chairman, in the first of what would become many elections. His first run for a prominent political office was in 1964, for

In 1953, the Bushes' daughter Robin died of leukemia. It severely affected Barbara Bush, and is the incident that is credited with beginning to turn her hair from a light brown color to chalk-white.[1]

After the war ended, George Bush graduated from Yale University and the young family soon moved to Odessa, Texas, where Bush entered the oil business. They moved to several small suburbs around Los Angeles, California, before settling in Midland, Texas, in 1950. The Bushes would move some twenty-nine times during their marriage.[1] Over time, Bush would build a business in the oil industry and found the successful Zapata Corporation. Barbara raised her children while her husband was usually away on business.

Texas years

Over the next 13 years George and Barbara Bush had six children: leukemia), John Ellis "Jeb" Bush (born February 11, 1953), Neil Mallon Bush (born January 22, 1955), Marvin Pierce Bush (born October 22, 1956), and Dorothy "Doro" Bush Koch (born August 18, 1959). From their 5 living children, they have 17 grandchildren and 4 great-grandchildren.


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