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Barbara Bush: Reasons why we love former first lady and Republican matriarch

Barbara Bush, a Republican matriarch, became a major political figure as her husband became vice president and later the president of the United States. 
UPDATED JAN 20, 2020
Barbara Bush (Source:Getty Images)
Barbara Bush (Source:Getty Images)

Former first lady Barbara Bush died at the age of 92 on Tuesday, leaving many reminiscing about her legacy. Bush, deemed as "force of a woman" by her granddaughter Jenna Hager, was considered the rock at the center of one of America's most prominent political families.

She was the wife of a president — George H.W. Bush — and the mother of another — George W. Bush. Her other son, Jeb Bush, is a onetime presidential aspirant and a former governor of Florida.

Barbara Bush, a Republican matriarch, became a major political figure as her husband became vice president and later the president of the United States. 

America loved the plainspoken public figure, not just because of her political stature, but also because of the remarkable woman she was. Here are some reasons why she left many of us in awe of her personality:

Effort to boost literacy in America

The former first lady established the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy during her initial years in the White House. She worked towards the goal of improving the lives of disadvantaged people of the United States by boosting literacy among parents and their children. 

Her foundation also partners with multiple local programs and has given out over $40 million in an effort to create or expand more than 1,500 literacy programs throughout the country.

Barbara as a writer

The former first lady also had a knack for writing. Along with her memoirs, she has also written books like "C. Fred's Story" and "Millie's Book." These books are based on the loves of her dogs. 

Reports state that all the proceeds from her books benefited multiple adult and family literacy programs.

Barbara Bush with one of her pet dogs (Getty Images)

Her passion for pets

Barabara Bush loved animals, particularly dogs. The Bush family generally had at least one dog through the years, however, the best known among them was Millie, a springer spaniel. The former first lady also wrote a book on Millie, who became quite famous during George Bush's tenure in the White House.

Millie also had a litter of puppies at the time and the Bush family kept one and named him Ranger. Another one named Spot was given to George W. Bush and Laura Bush, who would also go on to become a presidential couple.

George and Barbara Bush of the USA enjoy the action during the British Open on the Old Course at St. Andrews Golf Club in Scotland. (Getty Images)


Her love story with George H.W. Bush

Barbara Bush and George H.W. Bush's love story is nothing short of remarkable. The couple who met at age 16 (Barbara) and 17 (George) at a Christmas dance in 1941, went on to become the longest-married presidential couple in America's history. 

"They became engaged a year-and-a-half later, just before he went off to war as a Navy torpedo bomber pilot,” according to the official White House biography.

The couple, during their long-distance relationship, shared love letters, in which she called him Poppy and he called her Bar. The couple married in 1945, as the former first lady once said: "I married the first man I ever kissed."

Former First Lady Barbara Bush and former President George H.W. Bush look on prior to the South Regional Final of the 2015 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament between the Duke Blue Devils and the Gonzaga Bulldogs at NRG Stadium on March 29, 2015 in Houston, Texas. (Getty Images)

An avid sports fan

George H.W. Bush and Barbara Bush had a lot in common, which also included their love for sports. Both of them were fans of the Texans and Astros. Barbara, at one Astros game, was also spotted rocking a ballcap and keeping score, while sitting beside George's side. 

Her white hair

The former first lady's hair began to turn white when one of her six children, Robin's terminal illness was detected in the 1950s. She tried to dye her hair later but abandoned the effort, saying died hair did not suit her. She also jokingly credited the white color of her hair with the public's perception of her as "everybody's grandmother."

Laura Bush, wife of George W. Bush, and Barbara Bush, wife of George Bush, at a campaign rally. They were attending a 'W. Stands For Women' rally for the Presidential campaign of their respective husband and son George W. Bush. (Getty Images)

Trademark pearls

Barbara Bush's pearls became a part of her personality as she sparked a national fashion trend when she wore them in 1989 during her husband's inauguration. Later, when questioned about them, she said that she chose to wear white pearls during the ceremony in an attempt to hide the wrinkles in her neck.

Her legacy

Barbara Bush was one of the only two first ladies in the United States who was also a mother of a president. The other was the wife of John Adams, Abigail Adams. Former president John Adams was the country's second president and was father to the sixth president of America, John Quincy Adams.

First lady Michelle Obama, U.S. President Barack Obama, former first lady Barbara Bush, former President George H.W. Bush and former President George W. Bush attend the opening ceremony of the George W. Bush Presidential Center April 25, 2013 in Dallas, Texas. (Getty Images)

Her outspokenness

Barbara's son, former President George W. Bush, once said: "She tended to be the enforcer" in the family, "her willingness to speak her mind stood in contrast to some tightly scripted political spouses.”

One of the most controversial statement by the former first lady includes a comment she made about her husband's political opponent, Democrat Geraldine Ferraro. Barbara was reportedly irked by Ferraro's constant jibe at the Bush family's wealth, when she referred to Ferraro and said that at least her family never tried to hide her wealth, unlike that "4 million dollar … I can’t say it, but it rhymes with rich.”

The former first lady later issued an apology for the statement.

Her Wellesley College speech considered among the best best

The former first lady was invited to deliver the commencement address at the all-women Wellesley College in Massachusetts in 1990. Although many protested her selection, her speech turned out to be one of the best speeches delivered in the nation.

Her 1990 address was ranked No. 47 on a list of the top speeches in the century by researchers at the University of Wisconsin and Texas A&M University in 1999.