Geraldine Ferraro, first female vice presidential candidate, dies

Geraldine Ferraro, who made history in 1984 as the first woman nominated on the ticket of a major national party, died on Saturday. She was 75 years old.

According to a statement from her family, Ferraro passed away at Massachusetts General Hospital due to complications from multiple myeloma, a blood cancer she battled for twelve years.

“Geraldine Anne Ferraro Zaccaro was widely known as a leader, a fighter for justice, and a tireless advocate for those without a voice,” said her family in a statement.

“To us, she was a wife, mother, grandmother and aunt, a woman devoted to and deeply loved by her family. Her courage and generosity of spirit throughout her life waging battles big and small, public and personal, will never be forgotten and will be sorely missed.”

Ferraro became the first woman nominated for vice president by a major national party in 1984 when she became Walter Mondale’s running mate; the pair eventually lost to in a landslide to President Ronald Reagan and his running mate, future President George H.W. Bush.

Bush said in a statement that he and his wife Barbara were saddened by his one time opponent’s death.

“I am happy to say Gerry and I became friends in time — a friendship marked by respect and affection. I admired Gerry in many ways, not the least of which was the dignified and principled manner she blazed new trails for women in politics,” he said.

Ferraro held an honorary position and raised money for presidential campaign of then-Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) in the 2008 Democratic primary, but sparked a controversy with comments about then-Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) that some found racially charged.

Ferraro stepped down from the Clinton campaign and said her comments were being misinterpreted.

President Obama issued a statement on Saturday, however, that praised Ferraro for her work fighting for equality for all people.

The president said: “Geraldine will forever be remembered as a trailblazer who broke down barriers for women, and Americans of all backgrounds and walks of life. Whether it was as a public school teacher, assistant district attorney, Member of Congress, or candidate for Vice President, Geraldine fought to uphold America’s founding ideals of equality, justice, and opportunity for all. And as our Ambassador to the UN Human Rights Commission, she stood up for those ideals around the world.”

Clinton, now the nation’s top diplomat, memorialized Ferraro as a role model for female leaders, acknowledging that the battles that had to be fought along the way.

“Gerry Ferraro was 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,” Clinton said in a statement. “She paved the way for a generation of female leaders and put the first cracks in America’s political glass ceiling. … From the rough-and-tumble of political campaigns to the important work of international diplomacy, we were honored to have her by our side.”

Ferraro rose through from a career at her husband’s law firm through the assistant district attorney’s office before she getting elected to represent Queens, New York in the House of Representatives from 1979 to 1985. She remains one of two women nominated for vice president by a major national party; the other is former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

Palin posted her condolences on Facebook shortly after news began to spread about Ferraro’s death.

“When I had the honor of working alongside Geraldine on election night last year, we both discussed the role of women in politics and our excited expectation that someday that final glass ceiling would be shattered by the election of a woman president. She was an amazing woman who dedicated her life to public service as a teacher, prosecutor, Congresswoman, and Vice Presidential candidate,” she wrote.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi remembered Ferraro not only for getting on the presidential ticket, but for her service to the House.

“She not only made history when she was nominated for Vice President, she inspired women across the country to reach their own greatness as they strengthened our country. Her service in the House is a source of pride to all of us in Congress,” Pelosi said in a statement.

Ferraro was born on August 26, 1935 in Newburgh, N.Y. and is survived by her husband of 50 years John Zaccaro, as well as her three children and eight grandchildren.

This post was first published at 12:10 and was updated at 6:05 p.m.

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