Barbara Pierce Bush (born June 8, 1925) is the wife of the 41st President of the United States, George H. W. Bush and was First Lady of the United States from 1989 to 1993. Preceding that, she was the 33rd Second Lady of the United States from 1981 to 1989 while her husband was Vice President to Ronald Reagan. She is the mother of U.S. President George W. Bush and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush. As wife of the Vice President and then President, and continuing after leaving Washington, she supported the cause of universal literacy.
Barbara attended Rye Country Day School from 1931 to 1937 and later boarding school at Ashley Hall in Charleston, South Carolina (from 1940 to 1943). She was athletic as a youth and enjoyed swimming, tennis, and bike-riding. Her interest in reading began early in her life; she recalls gathering with her family during the evenings and reading together.
She met George Herbert Walker "Poppy" Bush, a student at Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, at age sixteen during a dance over Christmas vacation. One and a half years later, the two became engaged to be married, just before he went off to World War II as a Navy torpedo bomber pilot. He named three of his planes after her: Barbara, Barbara II, and Barbara III. When he returned on leave, she had dropped out of Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. Two weeks later, on January 6, 1945, they married. He graduated from Yale University following the end of the war; they soon moved to Midland, Texas.
She gave birth to six children:
During that time, George H. W. Bush built a business in the oil industry, where he founded Zapata Corporation. The Bush family moved 30 times over the years. Barbara raised her children while her husband, who served in a variety of government jobs, was usually away.
Barbara Bush's cause as First Lady was literacy, as it was when she was Second Lady, calling it "the most important issue we have". She was also active with the White House Historical Association and worked to revitalize the White House Preservation Fund, which she renamed the White House Endowment Trust. The trust raises funds for the ongoing refurbishment and restoration of the White House. She met her goal of raising $25 million towards the endowment.
Bush was known for her affection for her pet English Springer Spaniel Millie and wrote a child's book about Millie's new litter of puppies. Barbara Bush became the first U.S. First Lady to become a recipient of the Henry G. Freeman Jr. Pin Money Fund, receiving $36,000, most of which she gave to favorite charities.
Several schools have been named for her: three primary schools and two middle schools in Texas and an elementary school in Mesa, Arizona. Also named for her is the Barbara Bush Library in Harris County, Texas and the Barbara Bush Children's Hospital at Maine Medical Center in Portland, Maine.
Bush was initiated into Beta Sigma Phi women's fraternity as an alumna honor initiate and also was initiated into the Texas Eta chapter (Texas A&M University) of Pi Beta Phi women's fraternity in 2002 as an alumna honor initiate. Even before her initiation, she served as honorary chairperson of the fraternity's literacy philanthropy.
She serves on the Boards of AmeriCares and the Mayo Clinic, and heads the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy. In 2006, it was revealed that Barbara Bush donated an undisclosed amount of money to the Bush–Clinton Katrina Fund on the condition the charity do business with an educational software company owned by her son Neil Bush.
In 1984, Bush told the press that she could not say on television what she thought of then Vice-Presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro, but "it rhymes with rich".
During her husband's 1992 presidential campaign, Barbara Bush stated that abortion is a personal matter and argued that the Republican Party platform should not take a stand on it, saying that "The personal things should be left out of, in my opinion, platforms and conventions." Her personal views on abortion were not known, although her friends reported at that time that she "privately supported abortion rights".