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Former first lady Laura Bush wowed the 1,700 women who gathered in Salt Lake City Monday for the wrap-up of Sen. Orrin Hatch's 25th annual Women's Conference.

Bush first charmed the Abravanel Hall audience with self-deprecating anecdotes about her high-profile family, then spoke seriously about the growing influence that women exert around the world as they get involved in issues that affect their families and communities.

"Now she's craving corn," Bush quipped about her mother-in-law Barbara Bush, who recently had a pig's heart-valve transplant.

Bush also displayed a bobble-head doll of herself, which she said a friend had purchased "on clearance," after she and President George W. Bush left the White House.

Now they're both attending to their memoirs as they settle into their new home in Dallas.

Hers will be titled Formerly Shy Librarian Tells All , she deadpanned.

Bush soon got down to business, speaking about the need to teach women across the globe to protect themselves against breast cancer.

"Breast cancer does not respect national boundaries and neither can we in our efforts to stop it," Bush said, noting that in some countries, the disease is cloaked in stigma and shame.

Bush also lauded the brave women in Rwanda who had survived genocide and now run businesses and occupy half the seats in the country's parliament.

Just three years ago, Kuwaiti women won the right to vote, Bush told the audience. In the first election thereafter, several sought elected office.

"None won," Bush said. "But in the second round, three women were elected."

Very much on her mind were the embattled women of Afghanistan.

"I met with a group ... they said 'this is our only chance -- if we can't make it now, we'll never be able to,'" Bush said.

Besides stumping for women's health and human rights, Bush also lobbies for increased literacy -- issues she plans to incorporate into a women's empowerment initiative at the George W. Bush Policy Institute, part of her husband's presidential library at Southern Methodist University.

"I could very much relate to her," conferencegoer Chay Eysser said after the speech. "She's just like us."

Suzanne Granger of Bountiful said she's rarely missed one of Hatch's Women's Conferences.

"This was one of the best," Granger said, beaming.

First-time attendee Berna Sloan also came away happy.

"I was very fascinated ... and very much impressed," Sloan, of Tooele, said of the former first lady's remarks.

"And she reminded me that I need to go get a mammogram."

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