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Barbara Bush, wife of the 41st President and mother of the 43rd, dies at 92

As the wife of the 41st President and the mother of the 43rd George W. Bush, Ms. Bush was just the second woman in American history to see a son following his father into the White House. (Abigail Adams, wife of John Adams and mother of John Quincy Adams, was the first.)

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Barbara Bush: A Life in Photographs

Credit Jason Reed / Reuters

Another Son, Jeb, the governor of Florida from 1999 to 2007, was an unsuccessful candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016.

During this campaign, he was repeatedly ridiculed in personal words by the later candidate and now President Donald J. Trump prompted Mrs. Bush, who was never shy to voice her views, in television interviews that Mr. Trump was a misogynist and a prisoner.


Barbara Bush with her husband and a very young George W. Bush in 1955 in Rye, NY, where Ms. Bush grew up.

George Bush Presidential Library, via the Associated Press

"He said horrible things about women doing horrible things about the military," Ms. Bush said to CNN. "I do not understand why people are for him."

Mrs. Bush was largely indifferent to her family and glamor and downplayed her role in her husband's political success. But she was a smart and valuable ally, and became a popular speaker in at least four national campaigns: 1980, when Mr. Bush was elected Vice President of Ronald Reagan; 1984, when the two ran for re-election; in 1988, when Mr. Bush ran for president; and in 1992, when he was seeking re-election.

She joined another presidential campaign in 2000, that of her son George, then the governor of Texas. She appeared with fundraisers and met voters in New Hampshire and other states on his behalf when he rolled to the Republican presidential nomination.

She was clearly a political asset. A survey from 1999 found that 63 percent of Americans had a positive opinion of it and only 3 percent had an unfavorable.

During the first woman, from January 1989 to January 1993, Ms. Bush generally refused to speak publicly about contentious issues, especially when her opinions differed from those of her husband.

"I am not against or in favor," she said in 1989 about the Equal Rights Amendment. I do not want to talk about it, I want the same rights for women, men, and everyone else. "

There were rumors that she preferred abortion rights, but she made it clear that she supported her husband and did not say if she would felt comfortable with his anti-abortion attitude. However, she was vocal in defending the reasons of her choice. Literacy was one, and so were civil rights; she had been an early supporter of the movement.

And she could be combative in news interviews, sometimes shedding her glasses and hissing reporters if she thought they were overly aggressive.

Her openness occasionally got her in trouble. In 2005, when they visited the victims of Hurricane Katrina at the Houston Astrodome, where they were temporarily housed, she noticed that many of them were "underprivileged anyway" and that their Astrodome – although the living conditions there were very poor – "worked very well for them she. "

The comments that came at a time when her son's government was flatly criticized for his reaction to the storm were widely perceived as insensitive and condescending.

Two years earlier, just before President George W. Bush ordered the invasion of Iraq, she said in a television interview that she had not watched the coverage of the prelude to the war. "Why should we hear about body bags and deaths, and how many, on which day will it happen?" She asked. "Why should I waste my brains on something like that?"


Mrs. In 1990, Bush read to children in a daycare center in New York. Literacy and civil rights were two reasons she advocated.

William E. Sauro / The New York Times

She expressed similar frankness in 2013 when she was asked on the "Today" show if she would see her son Jeb for 2016 as a presidential candidate. She answered, adding, "There are other people out there who are very skilled, and we had enough bushes."

Later she changed her mind. In an e-mail to potential supporters in March 2015, she confirmed, "When the idea came that Jeb ran for the president, I hesitated." But she said she would launch a "Run Jeb Run Fund" because "Jeb is our best chance to retake the White House in 2016."

She went on to promote him in New Hampshire, but he became Fourth in the Republican primary there in February and interrupted his campaign a few days later.

wife. Bush enjoyed a positive public image during her years as First Lady. In one sense, she benefited from comparisons with her predecessor, Nancy Reagan, whom many rightly or wrongly felt were distant, icy, and overly stylized.

In contrast, Mrs. Bush was considered unpretentious, a woman who could wear false pearls, enjoy take-out tacos, run the dog in a bathrobe and make fun of herself. Perhaps she added to her appeal, in keeping with the popular view of an old-fashioned grandmother with her white hair and her matronly figure; even though she was almost a year younger than her husband, many thought she looked much older.

"What not everyone has always understood is that Barbara has revealed as much as she wanted, but seldom more," Donnie Radcliffe wrote in a biography in 1989, "Simply Barbara Bush: A Portrait of America's Unmasked First Lady. "She skillfully came to the White House to manipulate her image, and she was not over her own outspoken style against Nancy Reagan's hesitations and often the inability to express herself herself."

"A less popular political wife," added Mrs. Radcliffe, "might have been calculating."

Part of Mrs. Bush's popularity was based on her tendency to self-irony. Soon after she moved into the White House, she said, "My mail tells me a lot of fat, white-haired, rumpled ladies are tickled pink."

She would do anything she asked for from the Bush administration, she said, but she drew a line: "I will not dye my hair, change my wardrobe, or lose weight." Nevertheless, she was known as First Lady for wearing designer clothes and having her hair styled.

For all her jokes about herself, she also confessed that she wanted to cry after Jane Pauley told her in the "Today" show, "Ms. Bush, people say, George is a man of the '80s and you are a woman of the 40s. "

Mrs. Bush often insisted she stay away from her husband's concerns. But few who knew her believed that she would ever hesitate to share her views with Mr. Bush.

"They have influence," she said in 1992. "If you're married for 47 years If you have no influence, then I really think you're in big trouble."

However, the substance of this influence remained largely invisible to the public and made her one of the few first ladies of her era to avoid serious criticism. When Mrs. Reagan contributed more than a million tax deductible contributions to the renovation of the White House's living quarters in 1981, there was a public outcry. When Bush's friends collected nearly $ 200,000 that year to beautify the vice-president's house, there was little excitement.


Mrs. Bush in a 1988 Bush Clan portrait on the Kennebunkport, Me. Family estate during her husband's vice presidency. George W. Bush is sitting next to Mrs. Bush.

Paul Hosefros / The New York Times

"I got away with murder," said Mrs. Bush shortly before her husband's inauguration.

A glaring exception came in 1984. Speaking of Geraldine A. Ferraro of New York, the Democratic candidacy for Vice-President, Mrs. Bush, described her as "rhyming with the rich." Later, she apologized, but even then she parried with her critics and said she meant no insult by calling Mrs. Ferraro "a witch."

She was born to Barbara Pierce on June 8, 1925 in a maternity hospital in New York, which is run by the Salvation Army mainly for unmarried mothers. The family midwife practiced there a month a year, and this month happened to be June. She was the third child of former Pauline Robinson and Marvin Pierce. Her father was in publishing and eventually became President of McCall Publishing. Her mother, the daughter of a Judge of the Ohio Supreme Court, was active in Rye, New York City, New York's suburb where the family lived.

One of Mrs. Bush's ancestors was Franklin Pierce, the 14th President of the United States.

Barbara grew up in considerable prosperity. She attended public Milton School and private Rye Country Day School and, together with her contemporaries, took dance classes she never forgot. "I was 5 feet 8 inches at the age of 12, and it certainly bothered the boys," she recalled.

Her last two years of high school were spent at Ashley Hall, a boarding school in Charleston, SC. A classmate once described it as a place where "being bad means taking off your hat and gloves when out of sight of the school."

She met George Bush in 1941 during a Christmas dance at the Round Hill Country Club in Greenwich, Connecticut. George grew up in Greenwich, a son of Prescott S. Bush, a Wall Street manager and a future United States Senator from Connecticut and former Dorothy Walker. At the time he was a senior at the Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts. They started accordingly.

After graduating in 1942, Mr. Bush joined the Navy and trained as a pilot. The next year he was assigned to a torpedo relay in the Pacific and piloted a Grumman Avenger. On a combat mission, 1944, he was shot down by a submarine and rescued. Barbara had not heard from him for a month.

After enrolling at Smith College, but before entering the freshman class, she shocked her mother by spending the summer working in a screw factory.

She and Mr. Bush, on leave from the Navy, married on January 6, 1945 in Rye; The bride, not yet 20 years old, had dropped out of Smith at the beginning of her sophomore year. "The truth is, I just was not interested," she said in interviews. "I was only interested in George."

They made their honeymoon in Sea Island, Ga., And spent nine months at military bases in Michigan, Maine, and Virginia before Mr. Bush was released and entered Yale. In New Haven, where the couple moved, their first son, George, was born in 1946.

After Mr. Bush graduated in 1948, the family traveled to Texas, where Mr. Bush, with the help of a family friend, had accepted employment as an agent in the oil industry. For a while the family lived in Odessa, Texas, in one half of a house; the other half was used as a brothel. Within a year, they were sent to California. One daughter, Pauline (known as Robin), was born there in 1949 but died of leukemia before her fourth birthday.

The California stay was short; Soon the bushes returned to Texas – first to Midland, where they bought a house in an area called Easter Egg Row because the houses were all painted in pastel colors, and later to Houston. When the bushes reached the White House, they had moved 26 times

Four other children were born in Texas: Jeb (John Ellis) in 1953, Neil Mallon in 1955, Marvin Pierce in 1956, and Dorothy Walker in 1959. Only George and Jeb went into politics; Neil and Marvin became businessmen, and Dorothy Bush Koch became a philanthropist.


Mrs. Bush at a 2015 presidential campaign in Miami for her son Jeb. "When the idea came that Jeb was running for president, I hesitated," she once said, but she changed her mind. Ms. Bush is flanked by Columba Bush, Jeb's wife, and George P. Bush, his son.

Stephen Crowley / The New York Times

Mrs. Bush's children survive as much as her husband; her brother, Scott Pierce; 17 grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren.

Every summer, while Mr. Bush was busy oiling and raising money, Mrs. Bush and the kids drove to the Bush family estate in Kennebunkport, Me.

On her first trip there, Mrs. Bush discovered that The hotel where she had reserved on the way could not accommodate two black family members accompanying her and the children. The staff said they would find another place. But Ms. Bush refused to split up the group and find other accommodations. When she became First Lady, she insisted that her spokeswoman be black – a first for this position.

The family moved to Washington in 1966 when Mr. Bush was elected to the US after an unsuccessful Senate battle in 1964. House of Representatives from the seventh congressional district of Texas, which includes parts of Houston. He served two terms and launched a failed second campaign for the Senate.

Later, as compensation for giving up his secure seat in the house to run the Senate, he was appointed Ambassador to the United Nations by President Richard M. Nixon. He took over the post in 1971, and the bushes moved into the embassy suite of the Waldorf Towers in New York.

The family returned to Washington in 1973 when Mr. Bush was appointed chairman of the Republican National Committee, a position he held during the Watergate crisis. In 1974, President Gerald R. Ford sent him to the People's Republic of China to lead the United States Liaison Office in Beijing.

"Watergate was a terrible experience," Ms. Bush told Ms. Radcliffe in 1984. "Going to China and learning a whole new culture was beautiful."

She especially liked having her husband for herself; her children did not accompany her. The two drove around Beijing, learning Chinese and learning Tai Chi.

In "Barbara Bush: A Memoir," published in 1994, Ms. Bush affirmed that she had depression in 1976 after she and her husband had returned from his two. China was dispatched and he was appointed director of the Central Intelligence Agency, one Position he held for 11 months.

She had spoken at a press conference in 1989 about her depression, claiming that the women's movement had contributed to her illness. "I think it made me feel inappropriate," she said. "I'm not sure how, you've been made to feel a little humiliated."

Woman. Bush published another paper in 2004 titled "Reflections: Life after the White House."

As a lifelong charitable volunteer, Ms. Bush raised money for the United Negro College Fund while setting up a secondhand store in Midland in New Haven and volunteering at nursing homes and hospitals in Houston, Washington and New York. Her son Neil Dyslexia led to her interest in the fight against illiteracy.

During her eight years as the vice president's wife, she attended more than 500 reading and writing events, and after becoming a first lady, she founded the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Competency. The benefit from her book "C. Fred's Story: A Dog's Life" (1984), a dry look at life in Washington as seen by her dog, and a follow-up based on another family dog, " Millie's book: How to dictate to Barbara Bush "(1990) on Literacy Causes

Bush hoped that her contributions to these causes would make up a large part of her heritage.

"I want to be known as a wife, mother, grandmother," she wrote in 1988. "That's me, and I would like to be known as someone who really cares about people and works very, very hard, America better to read. "

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