Posted Saturday, March 26, 2011, at 2:30 PM
The first woman chosen to join a national presidential ticket died today from complications related to blood cancer. I was very young when Walter Mondale picked her; the statement on her death from Sen. Barbara Mikulski does quite a good job evoking the moment.
I’ll never forget when Walter Mondale chose Gerry for his running mate in at the Democratic National Convention in 1984. She became our first woman Vice Presidential candidate. It sent shock waves through the country. The entire nation was proud that we had broken this barrier. It changed the way we thought of ourselves. Women began looking at themselves in a new way. They would say – she’s not that much older than me. She’s not that different than me. She definitely has worked hard. But she did it. Maybe I can do it too.
I was so proud of her. So proud of the Democrats. And so honored to second her nomination at the Democratic Convention that August. It was electric. The male delegates had given their tickets to their female alternates so they could witness this grand moment in history. Ten thousand people packed the auditorium, including lots of children. So many people there never thought they’d live to see the day we’d have a woman candidate for vice president.
After the campaign -- I told her, "Gerry -- it’s kind of like breaking the sound barrier for the first time. You know, those guys in those planes starting to get to Mach 1 and then they got to Mach 2, or whatever it is they do to break the barrier. We got shaken up and pushed and pulled in a lot of directions just like they did. We didn’t do it, but it’s only the first time out."
Geraldine Ferraro cracked the marble ceiling. She paved the way for women like Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi. Someday, a woman will become President of the United States -- and Geraldine Ferraro paved the way. But she also paved the way for women in their day-to-day lives.
Ferraro's run presaged a surge in female candidates running for federal office; when Mikulski won her Senate seat in 1986, she won it by defeating another woman, Linda Chavez. (That wasn't a storybook campaign, though, and Bob Shrum was always convinced that Chavez tried, and failed, to raise suspicions about Mikulski's sexual orientation.)