Former first lady Barbara Bush died in Houston on Tuesday. She was 92.
Bush served as first lady of the United States during the tenure of President George H.W. Bush from 1989-93.
The office of George H.W. Bush released a statement announcing her death. She has been battling congestive heart disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and had recently decided not to seek any further treatment.
Barbara Pierce was born in New York City on June 8, 1925. She met her husband, George H.W. Bush, at a dance in Massachusetts in 1941 when she was 16 years old. After dating for a year and a half, the couple got engaged before he went off to World War II to serve as a Navy torpedo bomber pilot. When he returned on leave, she dropped out of Smith College in Northampton, Mass. They got married two weeks later on Jan. 6, 1945, in Rye, N.Y.
For the first several months of their marriage, the Bush family moved around the eastern U.S. as Bush’s Navy squadron training required his presence at bases in the area. Over the following 13 years, the couple had six children: George W. Bush (born 1946), Pauline (1949-1953), Jeb (born 1953), Neil (born 1955), Marvin (born 1956) and Dorothy (born 1959). Mrs. Bush is survived by 17 grandchildren.
In 1959, Bush was elected Harris County Republican Party chairman, and in 1964 he ran for and lost as the U.S. senator from Texas. However, this loss put the Bushs on the national scene, and Bush was elected as a U.S. representative in Congress in 1966. Over the following years, Bush was either elected or appointed to several different positions in the U.S. Congress, executive branch, or other government-related posts. His increasing political service inspired Mrs. Bush to engage in her own projects, including several charities and women’s groups in Washington, D.C.
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After Bush announced his candidacy for president in the 1980s, Barbara Bush alarmed conservatives when she revealed that she supported the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment and was pro-choice on abortion. That same year, Bush became former President Reagan’s running mate after he received the presidential nomination. In the eight years Barbara Bush spent as second lady, she became interested in issues surrounding literacy. She wrote a children’s book in 1984 titled “C. Fred’s Story,” told by the point of view of her dog, and donated all the proceeds from the book to literacy charities.
She became the first lady after Bush was elected president in 1988, and continued to promote her cause of literacy. She eventually helped to develop the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy, which seeks to improve literacy in the U.S. through programs directed toward pre-school children and parental literacy. She spoke regularly on “Mrs. Bush’s Story Time,” a national radio program that stressed the significance of reading aloud to children.
After leaving the White House, Mrs. Bush served on the boards of Americares and the Mayo Clinic, and headed the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy.
In 1995, Mrs. Bush received the Award for Greatest Public Service Benefiting the Disadvantaged, distributed annually by Jefferson Awards. She was honored with the Miss America Woman of Achievement Award two years later for her work with literacy programs.
She was portrayed by Ellen Burstyn in Oliver Stone’s 2008 “W.”