Barbara Bush, Former First Lady, Dies at 92

Bush was the wife of a U.S. president, mother to another, and devoted her term as first lady to promoting literacy

Last Updated: April 17, 2018 @ 5:04 PM

Barbara Bush, wife of George H.W. Bush and first lady of the United States from 1989-1993, died at her home in Houston, Texas, on Tuesday. She was 92.

Her death was confirmed by a statement from the office of her husband, George H.W. Bush.

In the final years of her life, Bush struggled with COPD and congestive heart failure, which left her unable to attend Donald Trump’s inauguration. After several hospitalizations, Bush announced through a spokesperson that she would not seek further medical treatment and would return to her home to “focus on comfort care.”

“It will not surprise those who know her that Barbara Bush has been a rock in the face of her failing health, worrying not for herself — thanks to her abiding faith — but for others,” a statement from the office of George H.W. Bush said Sunday. “She is surrounded by a family she adores, and appreciates the many kind messages and especially the prayers she is receiving.”

The mother to President George W. Bush and Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Barbara Bush became known in Washington for her programs to promote child literacy. She began her campaign as second lady while her husband was vice president under Ronald Reagan after her son, Neil, was diagnosed with dyslexia.

As first lady, she founded the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy, an organization focused on developing programs to help low-income parents achieve literacy and pass their GED tests. Bush’s daughter, Dorothy Bush Koch, took over the program in 2012, with Bush remaining as honorary chair.

Born Barbara Pierce in Rye, New York, she met George H.W. Bush at the age of 16. They married in 1945 while Bush was on leave from serving in World War II as a Navy bomber pilot, where he named three of his planes after his wife.

After the war, the Bush family moved to Texas where the future president’s political career began. Along the way, Barbara Bush largely refrained from speaking on political matters, but became involved in campaigning for her husband while starting her own charitable campaigns and fundraisers for Republican women’s organizations.

On some of the rare occasions Bush did speak out on politics — particularly social issues — she polarized conservatives. Most notably, she came out as pro-choice in the abortion debate, a position contrary to the Christian conservative movement while her husband was running for president in the 1980 primary.

She later reiterated her pro-choice stance during the 1992 presidential campaign, saying that abortion and homosexuality are personal issues and should not be included on the Republican platform. She explained that while she personally opposed abortions, she “just could not make that choice for someone else,” according to The Telegraph.

Bush is survived by her husband, five children, 14 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.