Geraldine FerraroU.S. Representative
Born: 26 August 1935
Died: 26 March 2011 (multiple myeloma)
Birthplace: Newburgh, New York
Best known as: The first woman to be a major-party candidate for U.S. vice president
Geraldine Ferraro was the first woman ever to run on a major party presidential ticket in the United States. A Democrat, she was Walter Mondale's running mate in 1984 in his losing race with incumbent Republican President Ronald Reagan and his running mate George Bush. Geraldine Anne Ferraro was born in Newburgh, near the Hudson River about an hour north of New York City. She graduated from Marymount College in 1956, and then from the Fordham School of Law in 1960. In the 1970s she was a lawyer and then an assistant district attorney in Queens County, New York, before winning a seat in the U.S. Congress from New York's 9th District in 1978. She was reelected to Congress in 1980 and 1982, and became known as a tough advocate for liberal positions, a colorful speaker and a proud Italian-American. (Her parents, Dominick and Antonetta Ferraro, were immigrants from Italy.) Her surprise selection by Mondale in 1984 was a landmark event, but didn't help the Democratic ticket in the end: the popular vote was about 54,167,000 for Reagan, 37,450,000 for Mondale. (The electoral vote was even worse: 525 for Reagan, 13 for Mondale, who carried only his home state of Minnesota and the District of Columbia.) Ferraro later ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate in 1992 and 1998, was a Fellow of the Institute of Politics at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government (1998-92), and co-hosted the CNN political talk show Crossfire from 1996-97. Geraldine Ferraro was diagnosed with multiple myeloma (blood cancer) in 1998, and she died in 2011 after a long struggle with the disease. She published a memoir, Ferraro: My Story, in 1985.
Extra credit: Geraldine Ferraro married real estate broker John Zaccaro on 16 July 1960, keeping her own name. They had three children: Donna (born 1962), John (b. 1964) and Laura (b. 1966)... Women had run for president in primaries and on non-major tickets before Ferraro, including Shirley Chisholm (1972, in the Democratic primaries) and Victoria Claflin Woodhull (1872, for the Equal Rights Party)... Barbara Bush said Ferraro was a word that "rhymed with rich" after the vice-presidential debate of 1984... According to the Women in Congress website, "Geraldine Ferraro excelled in academics, skipping the sixth through eighth grades and graduating early from high school in 1952."
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