Who was Barbara Pierce Bush? (June 8, 1925 – April 17, 2018)


Barbara Pierce Bush (June 8, 1925 – April 17, 2018), first lady of the United States (1989-93), born in Rye, New York, a great-great-great niece of Franklin Pierce, the 14th U.S. president (1853-57). As a preparatory-school senior she met her future husband, George Bush, and dropped out in her sophomore year (1945) at Smith College to marry him. The couple had six children. Barbara Bush brought a commitment to public service to her role as first lady of the United States.

After her husband, George Bush, won the 1988 presidential election, she launched the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy, dedicating support for reading programs across the country. Her charitable interests extended to medical causes, especially cancer victims. Shown here at the 1988 Republican National Convention are, left to right, Barbara Bush; Vice President and Republican presidential candidate George Bush; Senator Dan Quayle from Indiana, Bush’s vice-presidential running mate; and Marilyn Quayle.

Often described as “down to earth,” her straightforwardness was a key to her popularity as first lady. In this role she continued her commitment to a number of causes, principally the advocation of literacy. Through the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy, launched in 1989, reading programs throughout the United States are given support. Believing that increased literacy would ameliorate other social ills, Bush frequently urged those she knew or met to become reading tutors.

Her involvement also extended to areas of medical concern, especially the effort to conquer leukemia, the disease that claimed one of her daughters in early childhood. She volunteered her time and energy in fund-raising and in visiting cancer patients. In addition she personally assisted the efforts of soup kitchens and homeless people’s shelters. Proceeds from Bush’s C. Fred’s Story: A Dog’s Life (1984) and Millie’s Book: As Dictated to Barbara Bush (1990)—both written as accounts of life as seen from her dogs’ viewpoints—helped to further her charitable interests.

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