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Geraldine Ferraro: V.P. candidate inspired a generation of women

Geraldine Ferraro, who passed on Saturday, broke political ground when she ran for the vice presidency on the Democratic ticket with Walter Mondale in 1984. They lost to Reagan-Bush, but she inspired a generation of women to go into politics.

By Staff writer / March 26, 2011

This file photo shows Geraldine Ferraro giving a campaign speech in 1984. As Walter Mondale's running mate that year, she was the first woman to run for US vice president on a major party ticket. She passed on Saturday.

AP Photo/File

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Geraldine Ferraro was a ground-breaking American politician who never forgot her working-class, Italian-immigrant roots. And as the first woman nominated as vice president on a major party ticket, Ms. Ferraro was an inspiration to many women no matter what their political inclinations.

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Ferraro, who passed on Saturday, was a Democrat through and through, working especially hard for women’s rights in the workplace.

When Walter Mondale picked her to be his running mate in the 1984 election, they faced a very steep uphill battle against incumbents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush, and in fact they lost badly – winning only Mondale’s home state of Minnesota and the District of Columbia.

IN PICTURES: Notable women in US politics

But despite their defeat, Ferraro saw the positive impact her effort had made. “Every time a woman runs, women win,” she said.

Ferraro’s father died when she was just eight years old, leaving her mother to work in New York’s garment industry in order to support the family.

Ferraro was the first woman in her family to graduate from college, and after working as a public grade school teacher she went to law school – attending classes at night while continuing to teach second grade.

She went on to become Assistant District Attorney for Queens County, New York, specializing in child abuse and domestic violence.

A House seat in Archie Bunker's district

She first ran for Congress in 1978, in the Queens district where the popular TV show “All in the Family” and its antihero Archie Bunker was set. She labeled herself “a small ‘c’ conservative,” running with the slogan "Finally, A Tough Democrat.” She won reelection handily in 1980 and 1982.

In later years, Ferraro lost two bids for the US Senate nomination. She also served on the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, and she worked as a television political commentator and co-host of CNN’s “Crossfire.” She worked for Hillary Clinton in the 2008 presidential election.

As news of Ferraro’s passing spread, those who knew her – Republicans and Democrats alike – remembered the qualities and achievements that made her unique.

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