Geraldine Ferraro Dies0 Comments

Posted on 07 Apr 2011 at 12:45pm

Geraldine Ferraro, the first woman from a major party ever to run for vice president, died yesterday at age 75. Ferraro was a Queens criminal prosecutor and then representative in Congress who joined Walter Mondale in a presidential run in 1984. Although the Walter-Mondale ticket proved no match for Ronald Reagan and George Bush (41), Ferraro nevertheless busted through the glass ceiling of national politics 64 years after women were acknowledged their right to vote.

Ferraro was raised in Queens and the Bronx by a single mother  who worked  as a seamstress, his father died of a heart attack  when she was eight. She attended the Marymount School, a Catholic boarding school in Tarrytown, NY, and Marymount College in Manhattan. At Marymount, she was editor of the school newspaper and sports played. After college in 1956, Ferraro has taught in public schools in Queens before going  to Fordham Law School – where he said in an interview  that it  could  take up a man. She attended night school Fordham and received her  law degree  in 1960, only one of two women in a class of nearly 200.

Geraldine Ferraro married two days after passing the exam in New York State Bar but mostly spent the first 13 years of her married life raising three children, although she did pro bono work for the local family court. After his cousin was elected district attorney of Queens in 1973, she was hired as a criminal prosecutor in the special unit of the victims, to investigate issues such as domestic violence and rape. She ran to the representative of a district in Queens in 1978 under the slogan “Finally, a tough Democrat” and has served three terms. One of his most famous pieces of legislation, according to the Washington Post, was the Economic Equity Act, “which prohibits unequal treatment of women in the workplace wages and pensions.”

Ferraro’s vice presidential run with Mondale seems to be regarded as a blessing and a burden by historians. Although Reagan ultimately won the women’s vote, many women — feminists, for instance — were thrilled to support Ferraro. She supported the (still unratified) Equal Rights Amendment, which declared that men and women have equal rights, and supported legal abortion, although she herself was personally opposed to abortion as a Roman Catholic. Sexism was an uphill battle during her campaign. According to The New York Times, a Catholic bishop repeatedly referred to her during a press conference as “Geradine” while George Bush was referred to as the more respectful “Mr. Bush”; a Mississippi secretary called her “young lady” and asked if she could bake blueberry muffins. Barbara Bush even called her a “bitch” by way of saying “I can’t say it, but it rhymes with rich.” Bush’s press secretary complained to her as “too bitchy” as well. (Ferraro was also, it should be noted, the first Italian-American to run for national office.)

In his later life, Ferraro was a fellow at the John F. School Kennedy Government at Harvard University,  co-hosted the CNN show “Crossfire” and served as ambassador to the United Nations  Human Rights Commission under the Clinton presidency, and has appeared on Fox News as commentator . She ran for the U.S. Senate in 1992 and 1998, but both times lost in the primaries. She is survived by her husband, three children and eight grandchildren.

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