Barbara Bush (born Barbara Pierce) is the wife of George H. W. Bush, the 41st President of the United States, and she served as First Lady in the period 1989-1993. Barbara, also the mother of George W. Bush, is known for founding the Barbara Bush Foundation aimed at promoting family literacy.
Barbara Bush and Abigail Adams are the only women that are wives and mothers to a U.S. president. She was born on June 8th, 1925 in New York City, and in 1945, Barbara was married to George H.W. Bush, vice president in 1981, and elected to the presidency in 1989. Her son George W. became president in 2001.
Barbara grew up in Rye, New York, and she loved reading, and in 1940 she went to Ashley Hall, a South Carolina boarding school. When Barbara spent Christmas 1941 at home, she met George, just 17, and a senior at Phillips Academy (Andover, Massachusetts). After George completed high school, he served as the America’s youngest combat pilot in the Navy during World War II. After the couple was married, they moved to New Haven, Connecticut, and George went to Yale University.
In 1946, Barbara had her first child, future president George Walker, and after his graduation in 1948, George got into the oil business and the family moved to Texas and California. Barbara’s mother died in a car accident in 1949 and as she was pregnant, she couldn’t travel to the funeral, which left a deep scar. She had her second child three months later and named her Pauline Robinson in honor of her late mother.
Four years later, her daughter who was nicknamed Robin, died of leukemia, and this left Barbara and George devastated, coloring her hair from reddish-brown to prematurely white. ‘Jeb’ Bush (actually name John Ellis) was their third child, born just before Robin was diagnosed, and they had two more sons, Neil Mallon (1955) and Marvin Pierce (1956) and one daughter Dorothy ‘Doro’ Bush (1959).
In 1966, George was elected to Congress and the year after, the Bush family was moving to Washington, D.C. Later George became America’s United Nations ambassador and the lived for a while in New York City’s Waldorf Astoria Hotel, where Barbara became popular with a lot of foreign dignitaries thanks to her social ease and outstanding entertaining skills.
In 1973, the Watergate scandal was gripping the nation, and when President Richard Nixon asked George to head the Republican National Committee, Barbara was worried that her husband’s career might be damaged if he would defend the administration. In 1974, Nixon was forced to resign and Gerald Ford took over the presidency.
When George chose a diplomatic position in China in 1974, Barbara joined her husband to travel abroad for the first time, immersing herself in the country’s culture and language, but already one year later, George was to become director of the CIA which was under fire because of the Vietnam War and its Watergate involvement. Barbara was concerned, again, that George’s political future could be harmed.
While George was heading the CIA, and the house empty as the children were away for school, Barbara became severely depressed, but she kept her condition secret and refused to seek professional help, which brought her a deeper understanding of issues related to mental health. George decided to run for the presidency in 1979, so Barbara got back to campaigning and engaging with potential voters, but Ronald Reagan won the nomination of the Grand Old Party by a landslide and George was chosen as the vice-presidential running man, and Barbara’s husband became Ronald Reagan’s VP in January 1981.
George served two terms as vice president and decided to take on a second run for the U.S. presidency to become America’s 41st president of the United States in January 1989. Barbara Bush adhered a traditional role as a first lady and stayed away from politics. That same year, she was diagnosed with Graves’ disease, but that did not keep her from starting her own literacy organization, the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy.
The Bush presidency years saw the end of the Cold War, but also ongoing international problems. There was the 1989 invasion of Panama when U.S. troops apprehended dictator Manuel Noriega, and in August 1990, a 34-nation coalition started Operation Desert Shield to deal with Iraq after its Kuwait invasion.
The 1991 Gulf War became a victory for the allied forces as well as the Bush administration, and the prospects for a second White House term looked favorable as the U.S. troops came home, but after America came into recession in 1992, support for George’s administration plummeted, and in November 1992, Bill Clinton defeated George and the Bush family left Washington in January 1993 to return to Texas. Barbara resides with her husband in Houston but also spend the summers at their in Kennebunkport, Maine, and she continues to be active in her Family Literacy Foundation and as an ambassador for AmeriCares.