Geraldine Ferraro, who in 1984 became the first female vice presidential candidate on a national party ticket, passed away on Saturday at the age of 75. She died of an incurable blood cancer called multiple myeloma after living much longer than she was originally expected to after her diagnosis. In fact, Ferraro met her diagnosis like she met most other challenges in her life: head on and determined to make a difference.
She was only expected to live three to five years with the disease, but the strong woman continued to beat the odds. An article about Ferraro's 13 years with multiple myleoma on CNNMoney.com explains that she had a more latent form of the disease. Her doctor, Kenneth Anderson of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, credited Ferraro's public journey with the diesease with the changes in treatment over the years.
She meanwhile benefited, Anderson said, from advances in therapy and "novel treatments" that Ferraro herself helped bring into being by going public with the fact that she had multiple myeloma. "Her support and inspiration," said the doctor, "really helped to fund and bring these treatments to approval and availability for patients everywhere."
For more on multiple myleoma and her fight, CBS News has a video of an interview with her from 2007 on YouTube. It's worth the watch.
Her ability to defy the odds wasn't just reserved for medical issues, of course. Ferraro was always a determined woman. She skipped three grades, graduated at age sixteen, got a scholarship and put herself through Fordham Law School while teaching public school in New York. As if that wasn't enough, she started the Special Victims Bureau in Queens, went on to be elected to New York's Ninth Congressional District (Queens again), worked on efforts to get the Equal Rights Amendment passed and sponsored the Women's Economic Equality Act of 1984. After her run for vice president with Presidential nominee Walter Mondale, she remained active in politics.
Ferraro experienced some issues with the 2008 election in which her involvement got her in a bit of hot water. Her comments on gender and race earned her two posts with a variety of comments on the subject.
This is one of the videos that inspired the charges of racism.
Despite all of that, Ferraro remains an important woman in America's history. The statement from the Center for American Progress notes how her presence in history has shaped opportunities for women over the past few decades:
The Center for American Progress mourns the passing of Geraldine Ferraro, the first female candidate for the office of vice president on a major party national ticket. She was a trailblazer who paved the way for later female national figures such as Hillary Rodham Clinton, Sarah Palin, and Nancy Pelosi. 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 because 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.
That we do, and many in the blogosphere have been commenting in their own spaces.
- ShortWoman remembers the 1984 Vice Presidential debate.
- Tennessee Guerilla Women has a great round-up of Geraldine Ferraro media, articles and video.
- Gloria Feldt wrote a thank you to Ferraro.
- Pam Spaulding talks a bit about Ferraro's comments about gender and race and how she has experienced the differences.
- Anne Laurie admitted her flaws but reminds us that Ferraro made a long line of political women and men possible.
Lastly, apparently there is some debate as to whether pro-choice Ferraro should be "allowed" to have a Catholic funeral. I surely hope that those arguing such things can put their verbal fists down long enough for Ferraro's family and friends to honor Geraldine on Thursday. Our thoughts are with those mourning the loss of an amazing, strong and, yes, human woman during this difficult time.
Photo Credit: © Arthur Grace/ZUMAPRESS.com
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