MAKERS Profile

Geraldine Ferraro

Vice-Presidential Nominee

In this video

Geraldine Ferraro on her historic nomination as the Democratic Vice-Presidential candidate, the exuberance of the moment, and its lasting legacy.
The daughter of first-generation Italian American immigrants, Ferraro (1935-2011) would later remember her mother’s fierce insistence that her talented daughter continue her education through college. Gerry kept the family name to honor her mother’s principles and sacrifices. Ferraro earned a Fordham J.D. at night while teaching elementary school and later had three children of her own. She was a tough and accomplished prosecutor and headed New York’s Queens County Special Victims Unit before winning a seat in the US House of Representatives in 1978. As Walter Mondale’s running mate in 1984, she faced unprecedented scrutiny as both the first woman and the first Italian American to appear on either major party’s presidential ticket. Ferraro’s humor and thick skin served her well, but could not ultimately change the outcome of the race.   After the historic but unsuccessful run, she remained an active and visible supporter of progressive and women’s causes. Ferraro later practiced law, offered her distinctively feisty political commentary on Fox News and served as a US ambassador during the Clinton administration. Bill and Hillary Clinton perhaps captured her best in a joint statement released at her death in 2011: “One of a kind—tough, brilliant, and never afraid to speak her mind or stand up for what she believed in—a New York icon and a true American original.”  

More From Geraldine

Inventing the SVU
Decades before Law & Order: SVU, Ferraro helped create the Special Victims Unit as a Queens Assistant District Attorney.

On the Ticket
Walter Mondale's bold decision to choose a woman as his running mate had an effect on the polls. 

The 1984 Convention
Ferraro explains how unexpected and moving it was to see a sea of women on the convention floor.

Changing Her Mind on the Women's Movement
Ferraro describes how she went from thinking the women's movement was not relevant for her, to embracing the call to act.

A Career After Kids
Ferraro on negotiating with her husband about returning to work after having children.

Law Firms No-Women Policies
Ferraro describes the dramatic discrimination she faced when trying to find a job after law school.

Girls Get One Grade
Ferraro speaks of sexism in the classroom and how she fought back.

The Transformation in Law Schools
One of just a handful women in her law school class, Ferraro marvels at the dramatic changes in law schools.

Second Choice Profession
Ferraro recounts her mother's advice to pursue teaching over journalism, as teaching was a good job for a woman.