Remembering Geraldine Ferraro

With the passing of the great leader, Geraldine Ferraro, many groups are reflecting on her remarkable career and important contribution to the fight for women’s equality. Among her many accomplishments, Ferraro was the first woman to be a major-party national nominee in her 1984 run for vice president of the United States. She used her three terms as a Congresswoman to pass legislation that brought equality to women in pensions, wages and retirement, in addition to spearheading efforts to pass the Equal Rights Amendment. More recently, Ferarro served as an Ambassador to the U.N. Commission on Human Rights. We've collected some of the reflections and tributes published over the last few days, remembering the extraordinary life of Ferraro. 

Marie C. Wilson, Founder and President Emeritus of The White House Project, reflects on the importance of Ferraro’s trailblazing. “While there was concern that Gerry Ferraro’s loss as vice president would set women back, in reality, her race kicked open the door for women’s leadership at the highest level in ways that weren’t fully appreciated at the time. She was scrutinized in ways that aren’t imaginable today.”

Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority Foundation remembers Ferraro fondly as a “historic feminist, a compassionate humanitarian and a role model for generations of women and girls seeking to break the glass ceiling.”

The Center for American Women and Politics remarks that her “pathbreaking 1984 candidacy for the vice presidency opened a door for women that can never be closed.”

Ellen R. Malcom, Founder & Chair of EMILY’s List remembers Ferraro’s early relationship with her organization: “Geradine Ferraro was a huge part of EMILY’s List from the beginning-from before the beginning, when our founders helped work to secure her nomination…Geraldine was so tough and so much fun.”

The Center for American Progress reflects on Ferraro’s legacy: “Her 1984 campaign, in which she sometimes overshadowed her running mate Walter Mondale, put to rest sexist questions about whether women could raise enough money or endure enough scrutiny to compete on the national stage. She once said she hoped to live long enough to attend the inauguration of the first female president of the United States. Unfortunately, that day did not arrive soon enough for her. But become of her groundbreaking courage and ambition, it is sure to happen in the not-too-distant future. And for that, we all owe her a debt of gratitude.”

Frances Kissling, former President of Catholics for a Free Choice, comments on the importance of Ferraro's political career to Catholic women specifically: “Observing Gerry during this period was an incredible opportunity for professional women – especially Catholic women, who were not accustomed to seeing themselves among those who held positions of national power and never felt that church leaders had to take them seriously.”

In 2008, Ferraro looked back on her contribution to women through her historical run for vice president. “Every time a women runs, women win. When you throw a pebble into a lake, the ripples move far beyond the point of immediate impact.”

Gloria Feldt, nationally renowned activist and author, uses Ferraro’s legacy to look forward into the future. “Geraldine Ferraro’s place in history is assured. The smart mouthed tough talking Queens Congresswoman tapped to be Walter Mandale’s vice presidential running mate shattered a particularly stubborn glass ceiling. As I mourned her passing…I found myself watching her acceptance speak again, not with nostalgia but with celebration, appreciation – and a sense of urgency for the next generation of progressive women political leaders to step forward to continue her legacy.”

Adele M. Stan, columnist and blogger, comments on the way Ferraro’s nomination impact her when her career was just beginning at Ms. magazine. “Geraldine Ferraro’s nomination was a thrill for women all over the nation. But for a young feminist from a Catholic family, Ferraro’s elevation to the national stage was also a point of cultural and class pride.”

NCRW's Vivienne Heston-Demirel--who as a young reporter trekked to a small impoverished town in Capania, Italy to track down Ferraro’s relatives when she was nominated as a candidate--writes, "Geraldine Ferraro’s rise testifies, not only to the American story but also to the resiliency and toughness of immigrant parents who against all odds, were able to instill such hope and discipline in their daughter."

Please leave your own tribute to Geraldine Ferraro in the comments. For more information on current work to increase women's representation in politics, check out these organizations:

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We are also remembering Merlin Stone, author of "When God was a Woman", who passed recently. Her memorial is planned for Sept 24th:

~Bobbie Grennier