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Former First Lady Barbara Bush Dies at 92

Barbara Bush served as First Lady with her husband, President George H.W. Bush from 1989-1993. The couple celebrated their 73rd anniversary earlier this year.

Courtesy of the Bush Presidential Library

Barbara Bush served as First Lady with her husband, President George H.W. Bush from 1989-1993. The couple celebrated their 73rd anniversary earlier this year.

Barbara Bush, the former First Lady and wife of President George H.W. Bush, died Tuesday evening at age 92. According to CNN, Bush had been hospitalized over the course of the past year for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and congestive heart failure. On Sunday, reports came out that Bush would no longer seek treatment despite her declining health.

Bush was the First Lady during her husband’s presidency from 1989-1993. The couple celebrated their 73rd wedding anniversary earlier this year.

As First Lady, Bush was known primarily for her efforts in getting families to read. According to Sentinel & Enterprise, The Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy opened “with a goal to improve the lives of disadvantaged Americans by boosting literacy among parents and their children.” As of 2014, the foundation has helped create more than 1,500 literacy programs throughout the United States.

Bush was also known for her self-deprecating humor. According to NPR, upon learning she would become first lady, Bush said “My mail tells me that a lot of fat, white-haired, wrinkled ladies are tickled pink.”

As a woman in such a powerful position, Bush defied traditional beauty conventions at that point. Unlike her predecessor, Nancy Reagan, Bush appeared very down-to-earth despite her elite connections. Her undyed white hair and strand of fake pearls gave an impression of humility compared to her Manhattan upbringing.

Bush is also only the second woman to be both wife and mother to a U.S. President (behind Abigail Adams). Mrs. Bush watched as her son, George Walker, took the oath of office in January 2001.

Known also for her tough spirit, the former First Lady was known to speak openly about dissent, especially directed at her sons. During the 2016 campaign, Bush responded to an attack from then-candidate Donald Trump towards her son Jeb. “I’m sick of him. I don’t understand why people are for him.”

When George W. Bush faced similar criticism as president, Bush said “Sometimes I just wanna give people a piece of my mind. But of course, as George would say, ‘Wouldn’t be prudent!’”

Her son, the former president, issued a statement. “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.”

According to a statement from the Office of George H.W. Bush, “[Mrs. Bush] is survived by her husband… five children… 17 grandchildren; seven great grandchildren; and her brother…”

Plans for a memorial service have not yet been announced.  

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