Barbara Bush, the matriarch of a Republican political dynasty and a first lady who elevated the cause of literacy, died Tuesday, according to a statement from her husband’s office. She was 92.
Only the second woman in American history to have had a husband and a son elected President (Abigail Adams was the first), Bush was seen as a plainspoken public figure who was instantly recognizable with her signature white hair and pearl necklaces and earrings. She became a major political figure as her husband, George H.W. Bush, rose to become vice president and president. After they left the White House, she was a potent spokeswoman for two of her sons — George W. and Jeb — as they campaigned for office.
Quick-witted with a sharp tongue, the feisty Barbara Bush was a fierce defender of her husband and an astute adviser.
As first lady, her principal persona as a devoted wife and mother contrasted in many ways with her peer and predecessor, Nancy Reagan, and her younger successor, Hillary Clinton, both of whom were seen as more intimately involved in their husbands’ presidencies.
Bush is survived by her husband, George H.W.; sons George W., Neil, Marvin and Jeb; daughter, Dorothy Bush Koch; and 17 grandchildren.