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Barbara Bush: 10 things you probably didn’t know about ‘America’s first grandmother’

Wife of one US president and mother to another, Barbara Bush was admired by many in the US for her sharp tongue and fiery spirit. Here are 10 fun facts about the woman known as ‘America’s first grandmother’

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 19 April, 2018, 12:01am
UPDATED : Thursday, 19 April, 2018, 1:05am

The wife of America’s 41st president and mother to its 43rd, Barbara Bush has been among the nation’s most prominent and respected women for decades. Here are 10 fun facts about her long life at the top of America’s political system.

1. She met her husband, George H.W. Bush, at a dance when she was just 16. He was then a 17-year-old senior at Phillips Academy prep school in Andover, Massachusetts.

2. Formerly Barbara Pierce, she was a distant relative of the country’s 14th president, Franklin Pierce.

3. While her husband was ambassador to China, then-Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and his family visited the Bushes for Thanksgiving lunch. Barbara Bush wrote in her memoir that she could tell during the visit they were being spied on by Chinese authorities.

3. In an interview with Larry King in 2010, two years after Sarah Palin was Republican John McCain’s running mate in the election for US president, she said of the former Alaska governor: “I sat next to her once, thought she was beautiful. And I think she’s very happy in Alaska. And I hope she’ll stay there.”

4. In 1970, a year after former US President Lyndon B. Johnson left the White House, Bush hosted a wedding luncheon for the daughter of one of his close friends. Although she said LBJ “could not have been a better guest”, Bush added in her memoir that her daughter and a friend “were in deep shock” when Johnson snagged the newspaper from the family’s front yard as he left.

5. In the summer of 1943, during the second world war, she worked at a nuts-and-bolts factory in Port Chester, New York, according to her memoir.

Matriarch, enforcer, commander: Barbara Bush, America’s ‘first grandmother’

6. In 1969, while her husband served in Congress, Bush began writing a column for Houston newspapers about life in Washington.

7. She also wrote two children’s books, C. Fred’s Story and Millie’s Book. Both were written from the perspective of their family dogs.

8. She recounted in her memoir her irritation at Jane Pauley, the Today show host who, during the 1980 New Hampshire Republican Party primary campaign, asked her during an interview, “Mrs Bush, people say your husband is a man of the ’80s and you are a woman of the ’40s. What do you say to that?” The interview had to be reshot after the tape was ruined, Bush wrote.

Barbara Bush, wife and mother of US presidents, dead at 92

10. She writes that she initially “dreaded” attending the 1980 Republican National Convention after her husband failed to become the party’s presidential nominee, but once there, she said she became “very competitive”. Ronald Reagan announced on the third night of the convention that George Bush was his choice to be his vice-presidential running mate.