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Geraldine Ferraro, US Political Pioneer, Dies at 75

  • Kent Klein

Former vice-presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro address attendees at the Women's Summit 2008 on the Bryant University campus in North Smithfield, Rhode Island, March 13, 2008 (file photo)

Former vice-presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro address attendees at the Women's Summit 2008 on the Bryant University campus in North Smithfield, Rhode Island, March 13, 2008 (file photo)

Geraldine Ferraro, the first woman vice presidential candidate on a major U.S. party ticket, has died. Ferraro’s unsuccessful 1984 campaign paved the way for future female candidates for national office.

Former congresswoman and vice presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro died Saturday in Boston, Massachusetts at the age of 75. She had battled blood cancer for more than a decade.

Ferraro was a little-known three-term Representative from the New York City borough of Queens, when, in 1984, Walter Mondale, the Democratic Party nominee for president, chose her as his running mate.

The first woman nominated by a major party for national office introduced herself to Americans at the Democratic National Convention.

“I stand before you to proclaim tonight: America is the land where dreams can come true for all of us," she said.

Her acceptance speech drew eight minutes of foot stomping and cheering from the delegates in the convention hall.

Ferraro campaigned intensely against the policies of the Republican president, Ronald Reagan, and for women’s rights.

“This candidacy is not just a symbol. It is a breakthrough. It is not just a statement. It is a bond between women all over America," she said.

Ferraro was also the first, and so far the only, Italian-American candidate on a U.S. major party ticket.

Controversy also accompanied her candidacy. She was often confronted by protesters angry about her favorable view of abortion rights.

Also, questions arose about the business dealings of Ferraro’s husband, John Zaccaro, who later pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor fraud charge.

Mr. Reagan and Vice President George H.W. Bush were re-elected in one of the most one-sided presidential races in history, defeating Mondale and Ferraro in 49 of the 50 states.

Mondale Saturday remembered his former running mate as a pioneer for justice for women and a more open society.

Former President George H.W. Bush said despite the fierceness of the 1984 campaign, he and Ferraro later enjoyed a friendship marked by respect and affection.

After the election, Ferraro returned to a private law practice, and made two unsuccessful runs for the U.S. Senate.

She also acted as an advocate for women who were raped during the ethnic conflict in the former Yugoslavia. And President Bill Clinton appointed Ferraro ambassador to the United Nations Human Rights Commission.

Twenty-four years after Ferraro’s pioneering run for vice president, two women figured prominently in the 2008 presidential campaign.

Sarah Palin became the second woman on a national ticket, and the first Republican woman, when John McCain chose her as his vice presidential candidate. Palin paid tribute to Ferraro on her Internet Facebook page on Saturday.

Also that year, Hillary Clinton finished a close second to Barack Obama for the Democratic nomination for president. It was the strongest-ever showing for a woman in a major-party campaign for national office.

Ferraro, who was supporting Clinton, created a controversy by appearing to suggest that Mr. Obama achieved his status in the presidential race only because he is African-American.

But on Saturday, President Obama praised Ferraro as a trailblazer who broke down barriers for women and for Americans of all backgrounds. He also said his daughters will grow up in a more equal America because of the life Geraldine Ferraro chose to live.

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