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Geraldine Ferraro
Woman in her forties, smiling for portrait, in more relaxed setting than usual for officeholders
Ferraro in 1998
United States Ambassador to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights
In office
March 4, 1993 – October 11, 1996
President Bill Clinton
Preceded by Armando Valladares
Succeeded by Nancy Rubin
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 9th district
In office
January 3, 1979 – January 3, 1985
Preceded by James Delaney
Succeeded by Thomas Manton
Secretary of the House Democratic Caucus
In office
January 3, 1981 – January 3, 1985
Leader Tip O'Neill
Preceded by Shirley Chisholm
Succeeded by Mary Oakar
Personal details
Geraldine Anne Ferraro

(1935-08-26)August 26, 1935
Newburgh, New York, U.S.
Died March 26, 2011(2011-03-26) (aged 75)
Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
Political party Democratic
John Zaccaro
(m. 1960)
Children 3

Geraldine Anne Ferraro (August 26, 1935 – March 26, 2011) was an American politician, diplomat, and attorney.

Early life and education

Ferraro childhood home
Ferraro lived in this building in Newburgh until she was ten.

Geraldine Anne Ferraro was born into the family of Italian immigrants. Her mother, Antonetta L. Ferraro (née Corrieri), was a seamstress. Her father, Dominick Ferraro, was an owner of two restaurants. Ferraro attended the parochial school Mount Saint Mary's in Newburgh when she was young. Her father died when she was eight. Ferraro's mother soon invested and lost the remainder of the family's money, forcing the family to move to a low-income area in the South Bronx while Ferraro's mother worked in the garment industry to support them.

Ferraro stayed on at Mount Saint Mary's as a boarder for a while, then briefly attended a parochial school in the South Bronx. Beginning in 1947, she attended and lived at the parochial Marymount Academy in Tarrytown, New York, using income from a family rental property in Italy. At Marymount Ferraro was a member of the honor society, active in several clubs and sports, voted most likely to succeed, and graduated in 1952. Ferraro attended Marymount Manhattan College with a scholarship while sometimes holding two or three jobs at the same time. During her senior year she began dating John Zaccaro. Ferraro received a Bachelor of Arts in English in 1956; she was the first woman in her family to gain a college degree. She also passed the city exam to become a licensed school teacher.

Ferraro began working as an elementary school teacher in public schools in Astoria, Queens, "because that's what women were supposed to do." Unsatisfied, she decided to attend law school; an admissions officer said to her, "I hope you're serious, Gerry. You're taking a man's place, you know." She earned a Juris Doctor degree with honors from Fordham University School of Law in 1960, going to classes at night while continuing to work as a second-grade teacher during the day. Ferraro was one of only two women in her graduating class of 179. She was admitted to the bar of New York State in March 1961.


Ferraro joined the Queens County District Attorney's Office in 1974. In 1978 she was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, where she rose rapidly in the party hierarchy while focusing on legislation to bring equity for women in the areas of wages, pensions, and retirement plans. Ferraro served in the United States House of Representatives from 1979 to 1985, and was the Democratic Party's vice presidential nominee in the 1984 presidential election, running alongside Walter Mondale; this made her the first female vice-presidential nominee representing a major American political party. She was also a journalist, author, and businesswoman.

In 1984, former vice president and presidential candidate Walter Mondale, seen as an underdog, selected Ferraro to be his running mate in the upcoming election. In doing so Ferraro also became the first widely recognized Italian American to be a major-party national nominee. In the general election, Mondale and Ferraro were defeated in a landslide by incumbent President Ronald Reagan and Vice President George H. W. Bush.

Ferraro twice ran campaigns for a seat in the United States Senate from New York, in 1992 and in 1998, both times starting as the front-runner for her party's nomination before losing in the primary election. She served as the Ambassador to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights from 1993 until 1996 during the presidential administration of Bill Clinton. She also continued her career as a journalist, author, and businesswoman, and served in the 2008 presidential campaign of Senator Hillary Clinton.


Ferraro died in 2011 from multiple myeloma, 12 years after being diagnosed. In addition to her husband and three children, who were all present, she was survived by eight grandchildren.

President Obama said upon her death that "Geraldine will forever be remembered as a trailblazer who broke down barriers for women, and Americans of all backgrounds and walks of life", and said that his own two daughters would grow up in a more equal country because of what Ferraro had done. Bill and Hillary Clinton said in a statement that, "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."

Ferraro is buried in St. John Cemetery in Middle Village, Queens, within her old congressional district.

Personal life

Ferraro became engaged to Zaccaro in August 1959 and married him on July 16, 1960. He became a realtor and businessman. She kept her birth name professionally, as a way to honor her mother for having supported the family after her father's death, but used his name in parts of her private life. The couple had three children, Donna (born 1962), John Jr. (born 1964), and Laura (born 1966). They lived in Forest Hills Gardens, Queens, and in 1971, added a vacation house in Saltaire on Fire Island. They would buy a condominium in Saint Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands in 1983.

Awards and honors

Geraldine Ferraro Campus
P.S. 290Q Geraldine Ferraro Campus in Queens.

Ferraro was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame in 1994.

Ferraro received honorary degrees during the 1980s and early 1990s, from Marymount Manhattan College (1982), New York University Law School (1984), Hunter College (1985), Plattsburgh College (1985), College of Boca Raton (1989), Virginia State University (1989), Muhlenberg College (1990), Briarcliffe College for Business (1990), and Potsdam College (1991). She subsequently received an honorary degree from Case Western Reserve University (2003).

During her time in Congress, Ferraro received numerous awards from local organizations in Queens.

In 2007, Ferraro received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Sons of Italy Foundation. In 2008, Ferraro was the initial recipient of the annual Trailblazer Award from the National Conference of Women's Bar Associations, and received the Edith I. Spivack Award from the New York County Lawyers' Association. In 2009, legislation passed the House of Representatives calling for a post office in Long Island City in Queens to be renamed for Ferraro, and in 2010, the Geraldine A Ferraro Post Office was accordingly rededicated.

In the fall of 2013, P.S. 290Q in Ridgewood, Queens, was reopened as the A.C.E. Academy for Scholars on the Geraldine A. Ferraro Campus.

In 2018 she was chosen by the National Women's History Project as one of its honorees for Women's History Month in the United States.

Electoral history

Democratic primary for the 1978 New York's 9th congressional district election

  • Geraldine Ferraro – 10,254 (52.98%)
  • Thomas J. Manton – 5,499 (28.41%)
  • Patrick C. Deignan – 3,603 (18.61%)

1978 New York's 9th congressional district election

  • Geraldine Ferraro (D) – 51,350 (54.17%)
  • Alfred A. DelliBovi (R, Conservative) – 42,108 (44.42%)
  • Theodore E. Garrison (Liberal) – 1,329 (1.40%)

1980 New York's 9th congressional district election

  • Geraldine Ferraro (D) (Inc.) – 63,796 (58.34%)
  • Vito P. Battista (R, Conservative, Right to Life) – 44,473 (40.67%)
  • Gertrude Geniale (Liberal) – 1,091 (1.00%)

1982 New York's 9th congressional district election

  • Geraldine Ferraro (D) (Inc.) – 75,286 (73.22%)
  • John J. Weigandt (R) – 20,352 (19.79%)
  • Ralph G. Groves (Conservative) – 6,011 (5.85%)
  • Patricia A. Salargo (Liberal) – 1,171 (1.14%)
Vintage Geraldine Ferraro For Vice President 1984 Campaign Pinback Button (21892061646)

1984 Democratic National Convention (vice-presidential tally)

1984 United States presidential election

  • Ronald Reagan/George H. W. Bush (R) (Inc.) – 54,166,829 (58.5%) and 525 electoral votes (49 states carried)
  • Walter Mondale/Geraldine Ferraro (D) – 37,449,813 (40.4%) and 13 electoral votes (1 state and D.C. carried)
  • David Bergland/Jim Lewis (L) – 227,204 (0.2%) and 0 electoral votes

Democratic primary for the 1992 U.S. Senate election

  • Robert Abrams – 426,904 (37%)
  • Geraldine Ferraro – 415,650 (36%)
  • Al Sharpton – 166,665 (14%)
  • Elizabeth Holtzman – 144,026 (12%)

Democratic primary for the 1998 U.S. Senate election

  • Chuck Schumer – 388,701 (50.83%)
  • Geraldine Ferraro – 201,625 (26.37%)
  • Mark Green – 145,819 (19.07%)
  • Eric Ruano-Melendez – 28,493 (3.73%)

Images for kids

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Geraldine Ferraro para niños

  • Women in the United States House of Representatives
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