Feminist Hints From a Former First Lady

If someone asked me to comprise a list of political leaders with the most ingenious, progressive ideas regarding how to build a better, more caring and empathetic society, the list of people I would never consider is by far longer than the one with those in which I would. Probably by at least a yard or so.     

But would I consider adding former First Lady Barbara Bush?


Honestly, maybe.

As a student majoring in English and double minoring in history and WGS (women’s and gender studies), I am accustomed to dealing with incredibly sensitive, ominously depressing material; despite peanut gallery opinion, studying the humanities is not all about sunshine, “easy As because it’s not math”, and coloring. In regards to the histories of marginalized humans, the United States of America has been aggressively steering itself far from the infamous f-word (feminism) for centuries, and it’s pretty much impossible to pick out a decade where something or someone(s) despicable were not waging hot and cold wars to regress and suppress the safety and security of immigrants and women and LGBT persons and POC. In most recent memory, this equivalates to things like budget cuts to education and healthcare, and then privatizing the future growth and health of American children with glutinous CEOs, egging the public to support superfluous military campaigns to defend The Castle on the Hill from a scapegoated fiend somewhere overseas that most Americans cannot pick out on a map without a cheat sheet, stabbing ERA and handshaking Global Gag, fighting tooth and nail for the phlegm that is DOMA, stupid campaigns drowning in fabricated falsehoods against women’s right to choose… the lists are endless and terrible.               

The history of United States feminisms is full of mostly white, senile men pumping dollars and hours and campaigns to eradicate it.  Although the progress I see today is fantastic, it’s been really rough.

In terms of Barbara Bush, the 41st FLOTUS, although she herself never ran for public office or signed a law or amended the constitution, she didn’t just sit home and knit, although truthfully, most Republicans at the time really wished she did. Barb basically spent decades being told by the men around her to shut up and tone her opinions down, so naturally, she embraced a sharp tongue and kept on bitchin’.

She was adamant that humans fighting HIV/AIDS were to be protected and loved, hugging ill children while others refused to touch them, and urged her husband to increase funding for AIDS programs while the world was demanding otherwise.

She despised segregation and racial bigotry and was reputed to have been influential in the appointment of the first African-American to her husband's cabinet.

She hated guns, refused to have them in the house, and argued with Ronald Reagan a lot.

She made it no secret that abortion should always and only be a private manner in which politicians should not take positions upon; that the only persons with any weight in the decision should be the doctors and their patients.    

Equal opportunity for the educational advancement of children and their families was undoubtedly her highest priority, so she established the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy in hopes to alleviate and ultimately eliminate the perpetual cycle of generational illiteracy that she believed to be one of the most terrible vehicles of oppression rampaging the nation, and as a future educator, I agree with her.

She went public about her terrible depression and how she felt she was inadequate and not doing enough. Her second child died of blood cancer at three years old. She cracked jokes and roasted her husband and son, two former U.S. presidents, all the time. She was witty, sassy, and pretty badass-y.

So would I consider adding former First Lady Barbara Bush to my list of most influential and positive humans?

Honestly, yes.


Photos used in this article were found here and here.