Barbara Pierce Bush (June 8, 1925 – April 17, 2018), former First Lady of the United States, was a tireless family literacy advocate, supporter of cancer research following the death of their three year-old daughter, Robin, from leukemia, and a devoted wife and mother of five children.
Mrs. Bush used her bully pulpit to try to do something to help others every day. During her time as First Lady, she went to soup kitchens, homeless shelters, hospitals, and senior centers. Barbara Bush ultimately chose literacy as her signature cause. She believed if more people could read, write, and comprehend, we could be much closer to solving so many other problems that our country faces.
In 1989, Mrs. Bush launched the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy to support parents with unmet literacy needs so they could learn alongside their children. Since inception, the Foundation has provided more than $110 million in support to literacy programs in all 50 states and the District of Columbia and impacted millions of lives. In 1991, Mrs. Bush and other advocates celebrated the passage of the National Literacy Act, which created the National Institute for Literacy and permitted the use of libraries and other municipal property as evening literacy centers for adults.
After the White House, Mrs. Bush continued serving as AmeriCares ambassador-at-large, a Mayo Clinic Foundation board member, and a supporter of organizations including the Leukemia Society of America, the Ronald McDonald House, and the Boys & Girls Club of America.
Mrs. Bush was the author of two autobiographies, Barbara Bush: A Memoir and Reflections. She also wrote two children’s books, Millie’s Book: As Dictated to Barbara Bush and C. Fred’s Story: A Dog’s Life.
Barbara Bush grew up in Rye, New York as the third of Marvin and Pauline Pierce’s four children. She attended Smith College and paused her studies to marry George Herbert Walker Bush in 1945. The newlyweds moved to New Haven, Connecticut for George Bush to attend Yale University and continued to move to more than 30 residences for President Bush’s notable career in public service. Mrs. Bush served as Second Lady of the United States from 1981 – 1989 and First Lady from 1989 to 1993. She had the unique position as being only the second in history to be both a wife and a mother to U.S. Presidents.
Together, George and Barbara Bush had six children – George W., Robin, Jeb, Neil, Marvin, Doro – along with 17 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren. The Bushes tragically lost Robin from leukemia in 1953. President and Mrs. Bush were happily married for 73 years.