In 1984, Geraldine Ferraro made history as the first woman to run for Vice President on a major party ticket alongside Democratic candidate Walter Mondale (via Time). Like Joe Biden in 2020, Mondale considered several women as his running mate, including future California Senator Dianne Feinstein. Like Kamala Harris, Ferraro was the daughter of immigrants and a former prosecutor with a reputation for toughness — Ferraro’s slogan while running for Congress was: “Finally, A Tough Democrat.”
While the third woman running for Vice President (don’t forget Sarah Palin) has much in common with the third, the world looked very different in 1984. Look back at Ferraro’s life and how she was treated during the campaign.
Geraldine Ferraro went to law school but had trouble finding work
Geraldine Ferraro was born in 1935 and named after her older brother, Gerald, who had died in a car crash shortly before her birth (via House of Representatives). She taught in New York City public schools while earning her law degree at Fordham by night. Shortly after her graduation, she married real estate broker John Zaccaro, though she kept her last name to honor her mother.
Unfortunately, Ferraro struggled to find work, as many Wall Street law firms were resistant to hiring women (via Time). She worked as a stay-at-home parent to her three children, Donna, John, and Laura, before her cousin offered her a job as assistant district attorney in Queens, New York. Ferraro quickly moved to the Special Victims Bureau, where her political ideals moved from moderate to liberal as she observed her clients’ suffering. When she won her seat in the House of Representatives, she had to work to balance her liberal values with the conservative values of her constituents.
Geraldine Ferraro faced open sexism
During her campaign as Vice President, Ferraro was criticized for being a working mother. The Cut reported that a Barbara Walters interview involved Walters suggesting that Ferraro’s political career got in the way of her spending time with her children. Ferraro’s husband assured Walters that she’d only been away from their children for two weekends.
Ferraro was also frequently faced with clueless questions. At a vice presidential debate, someone asked Ferraro, “Do you think…the Soviets might be tempted to take advantage of you simply because you are a woman?” In 2011, Mondale remembered his running mate’s patience talking to a constituent. “We went down to Mississippi, and some old farmer said, ‘Young lady, do you make good blueberry muffins?’ And she said, ‘Yes. Do you?’ That was the kind of thing that she was bumping up against. She had to keep her cool. She had to be nice about it. And yet she was undergoing a revolution” (via Time).
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