Geraldine Ferraro Biography


Birthday: August 26, 1935 (Virgo)

Born In: Newburgh, New York, United States

Geraldine Ferraro was an American politician who is best known for being the first woman vice presidential candidate in American history. In 1984, she made history when she accepted the nomination of Vice President Office at the Democratic National Convention in San Francisco. Her nomination gave hope to women across America that nothing is beyond their reach. Her uncanny political skills, outspoken and breezy personality, and powerful personal story helped her connect with the American audience.  Born to immigrant parents, Ferraro’s whole life is marked with trail blazing events. She worked tirelessly for women and labor rights. She was a very skillful politician, who was able to successfully pursue a liberal agenda while representing a conservative district. Furthermore, she was able to successfully work with her male colleagues to pass laws regarding domestic violence, sexual violence, and labor rights. Her life and career became an inspiration for women who wanted to pursue a political career.

Quick Facts

Also Known As: Geraldine Anne Ferraro

Died At Age: 75


Spouse/Ex-: John Zaccaro (m. 1960–2011)

father: Dominick Ferraro

mother: Antonetta L. Ferraro

children: Donna Zaccaro, John Jr. Zaccaro, Laura Zaccaro

Born Country: United States

Political Leaders American Women

Died on: March 26, 2011

place of death: Boston, Massachusetts, United States

Notable Alumni: Fordham University School Of Law, Marymount Manhattan College

Ancestry: Italian American

More Facts

education: Marymount Manhattan College, Fordham University School of Law

Childhood & Early Life

Geraldine Anne Ferraro was born on August 26, 1935, in Newburgh, New York, USA. She was the only girl and also the youngest child in the Ferraro family.

She was named after her older brother, Gerald, who died in a car accident two years before she was born.

Her father, Dominick Ferraro, was the owner of a five-and-dime store and a restaurant. He was arrested in  1944 for running a racket and suffered a fatal heart attack on the day he was supposed to appear in court.

Her mother, Antonetta Ferraro, sold the house and store and moved to Bronx with her three children.

Geraldine Farraro attended Marymount Catholic School, in Tarrytown, New York. She was an A+ student and was promoted to ninth grade straight from the fifth grade. She completed her high school in 1952.

She then enrolled at the Marymount College in Tarrytown and was given full scholarship to pursue her BA degree in English major. She later on transferred to the Marymount College’s Manhattan branch and graduated in 1956.

She soon enrolled at the night school at Fordham University to study law. In 1960, she completed her law degree and became a member of the New York State bar in 1961.


Geraldine Ferraro started her career as an English teacher in a public high school in New York.

After earning her law degree in 1960, Geraldine began practicing law on a part time basis. Her priority at that time was her family.

In 1974, her career took an upward trend when she accepted an offer by her cousin, District Attorney Nicholas Ferraro, for the position of assistant district attorney in Queens, New York.

In 1975, she was moved to the Special Victims Bureau, where she dealt with cases relating to rapes, child abuse, spouse abuse1, and elderly victims. Her three years stint with the bureau, transformed her moderate political outlook into a liberal one.

In 1978, Democratic Congressman, James Joseph Delaney, retired from Queens, New York district and Geraldine Ferraro grabbed this opportunity to start her political career.

She won the nomination with 53 percent of the votes and then went on to defeat Alfred DelliBovi, the Republican candidate, with 54 percent of the votes, in 1979. In doing so, she became the first woman to represent Queens in the Congress.

Her victory made headlines also because she was a liberal who managed to win a predominantly conservative district.

She won from Queens again in 1980 (58 percent votes) and 1982 (78 percent votes).

Geraldine Ferraro was known for her political balancing act. She successfully pursued a liberal agenda while keeping her conservative constituents happy. She supported many conservative legislations and she was also part of some prominent liberal legislations like, the Economic Equity Act of 1981. She also supported abortion rights even though personally she was against it.

Her perfect balancing act and the nick of getting things done made her the favorite of Speaker O’Neill. Her proximity to O’Neill got her a seat in the powerful Budget Committee. She then went on to serve in the Public Works and Transport Committee, Civil Service Committee, and Post Office Committee.

She was elected as the Secretary of the Democratic Caucus in 1980 and 1982. Her meteoritic rise within the Democratic Party led to her playing important roles in the Democratic National Convention.

In 1984, the Democratic passed a rule which allowed three-fifths of the serving House and Senate democrats to have automatic delegate status to the Democratic National Convention. Ferraro played a key role in passing this rule. The rule gave the elected politicians a chance to create a unified message for the party.

In 1984, Geraldine Ferraro made history when she was made chairperson of the Democratic platform committee. She was the first woman to do so.

Her increasing role in the Democratic Party and the resultant media exposure made her the favorite woman vice-presidential candidate amongst the feminists. In July 1984, Mondale chose Ferraro as his running mate.

The fact that she was the first woman Vice President candidate in the American history, garnered a lot of press coverage for the Democratic Party. However, the press coverage soon started focusing on her husband’s financial dealings and his refusal to release his taxes.

In November, Reagan and Bush won by a landslide. Mondale and Ferraro only managed to get 13 electoral votes.

Geraldine Ferraro went back to practicing law and also wrote three books on her experiences in politics. Ferraro, My Story was a campaign memoir that was published in 1985.

In 1992, she decided to run for US Senate and failed to get the nomination. She tried unsuccessfully again in 1998 and finally decided to quit electoral politics. However, her life in public service was still not over.

In 1993, President Bill Clinton named her as the US representative on the United Nations Human Rights Convention in Geneva, Switzerland.

Her book, Geraldine Ferraro: Changing History, was published in 1993. In this book, she made a strong case for giving more power to women.

At the Fourth World Conference on Women, which was held in 1995 in Beijing, Ferraro was named the vice chairperson of the US Delegation.

She also worked as a television analyst, columnist, and for some time she was also the president of a consulting firm.

In 2008, she was a member of the Hillary Clinton’s campaign staff but had to resign following some controversial comment that she made during an interview.

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Major Achievements

Geraldine Ferraro was the first woman in the history of the United States to be nominated for the second highest office of the country.

She was also the first woman to become the chairperson of a Democratic platform committee.

Family & Personal Life

In 1960, Geraldine Ferraro married John Zaccaro, who was a real-estate broker. They had three children- Donna (1962), John Jr (1964) and Laura (1966).

In 1998, she was diagnosed with multiple myeloma. She succumbed to the disease on March 26, 2011.

See the events in life of Geraldine Ferraro in Chronological Order

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