Fierce and feisty, honest and generous, the nation today mourns the loss of former First Lady of the United States, Barbara Bush. Remembered not only for her iconic pearls, but also for her great character and spirit, Mrs. Bush was a relentless proponent of family literacy and civil rights. As the wife of the 41st president and the mother of the 43rd, she is survived by her husband, five children, 17 grandchildren, seven great grandchildren, and her brother.
“I married the first man I ever kissed,” she quipped. “When I tell this to my children, they just about throw up.” The Bushes are distinguished as the longest-married couple in presidential history, having celebrated their 73rd wedding anniversary this last January.
Mrs. Bush was also only the second woman in American history to have both a husband and son in the Oval Office (Abigail Adams, wife of John Adams and mother of John Quincy Adams, was the first). Born Barbara Pierce, she was also a distant relative of Franklin Pierce, the 14th president of the United States.
As First Lady, Mrs. Bush used her platform to advance her own socially-minded causes. Although she preferred public deference to her husband’s policies, she was politically perspicacious, an honest voice, and a valuable ally to the president. “You have to have influence,” she said in 1992. “When you’ve been married 47 years, if you don’t have any influence, then I really think you’re in deep trouble.”
A statement from former President George W. Bush
“My dear mother has passed on at age 92. Laura, Barbara, Jenna, and I are sad, but our souls are settled because we know hers was. Barbara Bush was a fabulous First Lady and a woman unlike any other who brought levity, love, and literacy to millions. To us, she was so much more. Mom kept us on our toes and kept us laughing until the end. I’m a lucky man that Barbara Bush was my mother. Our family will miss her dearly, and we thank you all for your prayers and good wishes.”
Life well lived
Mrs. Bush was near-universally regarded as unpretentious and down-to-earth. She leveraged her popular view as an old-fashioned grandmother to push through progressive changes in literacy and civil rights. But above all, she was dedicated to her family.
“I want to be known as a wife, a mother, a grandmother,” she wrote in 1988. “That’s what I am. And I’d like to be known as someone who really cared about people and worked very, very hard to make America more literate.”
At Spey, we champion the formidable and elegant women that serve as driving forces in Washington, DC and our nation. Today, America has one fewer of those voices. We extend our deepest sympathies to the Bush family and join them in celebrating the life of Barbara Bush.
Image: Former First Lady Barbara Bush listens to her son, President George W. Bush, at an event on Social Security reform in Orlando, Fla., in 2005. Credit: Jason Reed, Reuters.