Barbara Bush, wife of one President Bush and mother to another, died Tuesday in Houston. She was 92.

Recommended reading: This 1992 Vanity Fair profile of her by Marjorie Williams on the eve of Bush’s loss to Bill Clinton.


At a time when George Bush has slid almost fifty points in most polls in a little more than a year, Barbara Bush stands as close to universal popularity as any figure in American life. Her approval rating is forty, even fifty points higher than her husband’s, and she gets as many as eight thousand letters a month. Aides call her “the National Treasure”—”the treasure” for short—in sly tribute to the qualities that make her an awesome asset to her husband.

Barbara Bush is America’s grandmother, casual, capable, down-to-earth; she is fake pearls and real family. “I’m not a competitive person,” she once said, “and I think women like me because they don’t think I’m competitive, just nice.” She bakes cookies, knits, needlepoints. She is funny, but mostly at her own expense. She is a woman so modest that she writes in the voice of a dog.


The more people talk about Barbara Bush, the more confusing grows the disjunction between the image and the woman. Two apparently contradictory threads run through her history. The first is her rigorous fealty to the gender roles of her day. And the second is the clear force of her personality—the commanding will that has been diverted and disguised, but never extinguished, by her life as the humble helpmate of George Herbert Walker Bush. The two threads of her life come together in an uneasy suspicion that she has paid a heavy price for the image she has lived.

Also, Governor Hutchinson released a statement:


“Barbara Bush was a First Lady who demonstrated dignity, compassion and love of family in every way. She was plain spoken and wise in all her words. She was a great role model, and she was deeply loved. She will be missed.”