Geraldine Ferraro

  • Grades: 3–5, 6–8, 9–12

Geraldine Ann Ferraro earned a place in history as the first woman vice-presidential candidate on a national party ticket.

Ms. Ferraro was born in Newburgh, New York on August 26, 1935. Her father, an Italian immigrant, died when she was eight. Her mother worked as a seamstress. She skipped three grades, finished high school at 16, and won a college scholarship. She then taught second grade in the New York Public Schools for five years. During that time, she also put herself through Fordham Law School at night. She and her husband, realtor John Zaccaro, have three children, Donna, John, and Laura.

After spending thirteen years at home raising her children, she joined the Queens County District Attorney's Office. There, she started the Special Victims Bureau, supervising the prosecution of sex crimes, child abuse, domestic violence and violent crimes against senior citizens.

Ms. Ferraro was first elected to Congress from New York's Ninth Congressional District in Queens in 1978 and served three terms in the House of Representatives. During her six years in Congress, she compiled a liberal voting record in Congress, but stayed in touch with conservative voters in her district.

Her committee assignments in Congress included the Public Works Committee, Post Office and Civil Service Committee, and Budget Committee, where she was a strong voice against the Reagan Administration's economic policies. Ms. Ferraro also served on the Select Committee on Aging, where she was an advocate for the elderly, fighting proposed cuts in Social Security and Medicare.

In Congress, Ferraro spearheaded efforts to achieve passage of the Equal Rights Amendment. She also sponsored the Women's Economic Equity Act in 1984, which ended pension discrimination against women, provided job options for displaced homemakers, and enabled homemakers to open IRAs. Her job as chief of the Democratic platform committee helped win 1984 Democratic Presidential nominee Walter Mondale's confidence.

Geraldine Ferraro faced an enormous amount of scrutiny during the campaign, both from the press and the general public. She and Mondale were defeated in the general election by Ronald Reagan and George Bush, who were seeking reelection.

Since her campaign for national office, Ms. Ferraro has remained active in politics. Most recently she was appointed by President Clinton to lead the United States delegation to the United Nations Human Rights Commission. She served as a public delegate in February 1993 and was also the alternate United States delegate to the World Conference on Human Rights held in Vienna in June 1993.

An active participant in the nation's foreign policy debate, she serves as a Board member of the National Democratic Institute of International Affairs and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

In addition to numerous articles, Ms. Ferraro has written two books: Ferraro: My Story, which recounts the '84 campaign, and Geraldine Ferraro: Changing History.

  • Subjects:
    Politics, The Presidency, Women's History and Experience, Women's History Month
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