Bush was the wife of the 41st president, George H.W. Bush, and mother of the 43rd, George W. Bush.
The Bush family had said in a statement on Sunday that she was in failing health, had decided not to seek further medical treatment and instead would focus on “comfort care.”
According to some media reports, Bush had been battling chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and congestive heart problems in recent years.
“Barbara Bush was a fabulous First Lady and a woman unlike any other who brought levity, love and literacy to millions,” George W. Bush said in a statement. “To us, she was so much more. Mom kept us on our toes and kept us laughing until the end.”
Dubbed “The Silver Fox” by her husband and children, Bush was known for her snow-white hair and for being fiercely protective of her family.
She was first lady when her husband was in the White House from 1989 to 1993. Her son, Republican George Walker Bush, triumphed in the disputed 2000 U.S. election and was president from 2001 to 2009. The father-and-son presidents were sometimes referred to as “Bush 41” and “Bush 43.”
The Bushes celebrated their 73rd wedding anniversary in January.
Bush had an independent streak and could be sharp-tongued. As first lady, she promoted literacy and reading but said she was more interested in running a household than helping her husband run the country.
She discouraged speculation that she wielded political influence with the president like her predecessors – Ronald Reagan’s wife, Nancy Reagan, and Jimmy Carter’s wife, Rosalynn Carter.
“I don’t fool around with his office and he doesn’t fool around with my household,” she once said.
“She’ll speak her mind but only to him,” said Jack Steel, a longtime Bush aide.
President Donald Trump and former Democratic Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton were among those praising the late first lady.
“She will be long remembered for her strong devotion to country and family, both of which she served unfailingly well,” Trump and his wife, Melania, said in a statement that noted Bush’s championing of literacy “as a fundamental family value.”
Clinton, who defeated her husband in the 1992 presidential election, called Bush “fierce and feisty in support of her family and friends, her country and her causes. She showed us what an honest, vibrant, full life looks like.”
Obama and his wife, Michelle, said in a statement that Barbara Bush was “an example of the humility and decency that reflects the very best of the American spirit.”
The only other woman to be both wife and mother of U.S. presidents was Abigail Adams, the first lady from 1797 to 1801. She was a major influence on husband John Adams, the nation’s second president, but died before son John Quincy Adams was elected president in 1824.
Another of Bush’s sons, Jeb, who served as governor of Florida from 1999 to 2007, sought the 2016 Republican presidential nomination and she campaigned for him before he dropped out of the race.
The Bushes had six children. A daughter, Robin, died of leukemia in 1953 at age 3. Barbara Bush’s hair began to turn prematurely white after the shock of the girl’s death. In addition to George W. and Jeb, the other Bush children were sons Neil and Marvin and daughter Dorothy.
The Bushes married on Jan. 6, 1945, and Barbara set up households in numerous cities as her husband moved from being a Texas oilman to being a member of Congress, Republican Party leader, U.S. envoy to China and the United Nations and head of the Central Intelligence Agency. (Courtesy Reuters)