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Geraldine Ferraro, First Woman on a Major Party Ticket, Dies at 75 [VIDEO]

Geraldine Ferraro, First Woman on a Major Party Ticket, Dies at 75 [VIDEO]

Geraldine Ferraro, the first woman to be on a major party ticket and an inspiration to many women to seek political office, has died at the age of 75. Ferraro was, as the Washington Post says, a ‘relatively obscure congresswoman’ from the New York city borough of Queens when Democratic presidential nominee Walter Mondale selected her to join his ticket. Ferraro died this morning in Boston, where she was being treated for complications of multiple myeloma, a blood cancer that she had been fighting for 12 years.

The choice of Ferraro gave new momentum to Mondale’s struggling campaign against President Ronald Reagan and Vice President George H. W. Bush. But an investigation into her husband John Zaccaro’s finances and business dealings and her support of abortion rights stalled her campaign. Reagan went on to win 49 out of 50 states in 1984. Ultimately, Ferraro’s candidacy has emboldened and inspired American women to seek political office and ‘laid the groundwork’ for Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential bid and John McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin as his running mate in the same year.

Ferraro was raised by her widowed mother, the former Antonetta L. Corrieri, in the South Bronx and Queens. She attended Marymount College in Tarrytown on a scholarship and was one of two women out of a class of 179 to receive a law degree from Fordham University’s Law School in 1960. After marrying Zaccaro in 1961, Ferraro became a housewife and raised three children. She did legal work for her husband’s business, some pro bono work for women in Family Court, and, as the New York Times says, ‘dabbled in politics.’ In 1973, she got a job as assistant district attorney in charge of a special victims bureau, for which she investigated rape, crimes against the elderly, and child and wife abuse. She was elected to the House of Representatives in 1978.

The New York Times quotes Ferraro about her history-making candidacy:

She addressed her place in history in a long letter to The Times in 1988, noting that women wrote to her about how she had inspired them to take on challenges, “always adding a version of ‘I decided if you could do it, I can too.’” Schoolgirls, she said, told her they hoped to be president someday and needed advice.

“I am the first to admit that were I not a woman, I would not have been the vice-presidential nominee,” she wrote. But she insisted that her presence on the ticket had translated into votes that the ticket might otherwise have not received.

In any event, she said, the political realities of 1984 had made it all but impossible for the Democrats to win, no matter the candidates or their gender. “Throwing Ronald Reagan out of office at the height of his popularity, with inflation and interest rates down, the economy moving and the country at peace, would have required God on the ticket,” Ms. Ferraro wrote, “and She was not available!”

In regard to the ethical and financial questions that hampered Ferraro’s 1984 campaign, Mondale said that a ‘male running mate might not have been dissected so severely,’ according to the New York Times. Remembering his former running mate, Mondale described her as “a remarkable woman and a dear human being” and, as noted in the Washington Post:

“She was a pioneer in our country for justice for women and a more open society. She broke a lot of molds and it’s a better country for what she did.”

As Ferraro later told an interviewer, “I don’t think I’d run again for vice president,” only to add “Next time I’d run for president.”

Here is Ferraro giving her acceptance speech for the 1984 Vice Presidential nomination:

I still remember the shiver of excitement I felt to see Ferraro on the stage of the Moscone Center with Mondale. Starting in the sixth grade, I had informed my family I was a feminist and proudly displayed a ‘Never Underestimate the Power of a Woman’ button I had bought at a school fair. It was something to see a female candidate.

Thank you, Geraldine Ferraro, for being a true trailblazer for women in the US; for women all over the world.

 

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Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

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30 comments

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9:51AM PDT on Apr 2, 2011

A strong woman who made a difference for all women by her life and commitment. RIP Ms. Ferraro.

10:21AM PDT on Mar 28, 2011

A definite loss for us all. I was five when she ran and don't have any memories of the election, but learning about it later, I considered her accepting the nomination to be a very gusty, bold move considering the attitude towards women in politics, and deeply respected her for it. I don't know if I'd have agreed with her politics, but that doesn't matter. She was a competent woman who showed girls they really can go all the way to the top and a message to the Old Boy's Club that their days were numbered.

3:11AM PDT on Mar 28, 2011

you never hear good things said about people thats alive...only when they are dead does it happen

9:16PM PDT on Mar 27, 2011

Bravo Ms. Ferraro. You will be missed.

8:10PM PDT on Mar 27, 2011

I too salute her. May she rest in peace. She did a lot of good for women and I pray that many more follow in her footsteps.
My thoughts and prayers go to her family.

6:32PM PDT on Mar 27, 2011

I was so proud of her. RIP Geraldine.

4:03PM PDT on Mar 27, 2011

Rest easy Ms. Ferraro. Thanks for all you did.

3:10PM PDT on Mar 27, 2011

She was a trailblazer that broke some serious political ground and will be missed. Like many said, it just wasn't her time but I believe it will be someone else's very soon and there will be woman vice president and/or president very soon.

10:30AM PDT on Mar 27, 2011

The woman who first broke that glass ceiling. R.I.P., Congresswoman Ferraro.

9:18AM PDT on Mar 27, 2011

Thank-you congresswoman for putting yourself out there - You blew open the doors! Rest In a Peace well earned.

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