AARP Eye Center
Veteran White House reporter Susan Page became intrigued by Barbara Bush while covering the presidencies of both Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.
“What struck me was that voters thought they knew her, but they didn’t really understand her,” says Page. “They'd say, ‘Oh I love her, she’s such a grandmother. I wish she were my grandmother.’ And she was a grandmother, but that was such an incomplete picture of who she was. She was much more complicated than people thought ... and routinely underestimated.”
AARP Membership — $12 for your first year when you sign up for Automatic Renewal
Get instant access to members-only products and hundreds of discounts, a free second membership, and a subscription to AARP the Magazine.
Page’s new biography of the former first lady, The Matriarch: Barbara Bush and the Making of an American Dynasty, describes many aspects of her life, including her love for her husband, George H.W. Bush, and her evolution into a formidable political strategist. But the author, who interviewed the Bush family matriarch before her death last year and was given access to her diaries, was particularly struck by the friction between Barbara and her predecessor in the White House, first lady Nancy Reagan. The chill ran particularly high in the eight years that Bush served as Ronald Reagan’s vice president.
Page says, “I think we all knew that Barbara Bush and Nancy Reagan weren’t pals, but I had no idea what was going on behind the scenes — the extraordinary tension that from Barbara’s point of view came mostly from Nancy. Now, Nancy Reagan, if she were here, maybe she would dispute that, maybe she would say it’s not her fault. But I found it remarkable.”
The following is an excerpt from The Matriarch: Barbara Bush and the Making of an American Dynasty by Susan Page: