It's no surprise that first lady Barbara Pierce Bush—with her keen wit, her warm demeanor, and her signature white hair—became known as "America's grandmother".
Barbara took the role of first lady of the United States in 1989 after having just spent eight years as second lady during husband George Herbert Walker Bush's two terms as vice president.
Having lost her 3-year-old daughter Robin to leukemia, Barbara had a warm and open heart ready for all Americans and would become best known for her work to promote literacy. She believed reading was key to social and economic mobility, and founded the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy in her first year as first lady.
"One out of six Americans literally cannot read above the fifth grade level," Barbara said.
Often by her side was the Bush family pet Millie, an English springer spaniel, who is featured in Barbara’s official portrait. The first lady even wrote a book about a day in Millie’s life as first dog, which is still sold today.
Her selection as commencement speaker for Wellesley College in 1990 was met with some controversy, as students questioned whether the doting wife and pearl-wearing mother was truly a modern woman able to inspire the next generation.
"Our success as a society depends not on what happens in the White House, but on what happened inside your house," Barbara said.
Her speech soon became regarded as one of the finest public addresses in American history.
"Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once and a while, you're going to miss it," Barbara said.
In 1990, America learned the first lady was living with Graves’ disease. Her husband assured the nation she was doing just fine. Within two years, he received the same diagnosis.
Barbara's time as first lady was shorter than most. She served only four years before her husband lost his campaign for a second term. In 1993, Barbara handed the role of first lady to her successor, Hillary Rodham Clinton.
In 2001, Barbara became only the second woman in history to be both a wife of and mother to presidents of the United States when her son George followed in his father’s footsteps to become our 43rd president.
Barbara Bush's role as "America’s grandmother" would continue, for years to come.