Female Political Trailblazer Ferraro Dies At 75

Geraldine Ferraro, the first woman to run on a presidential ticket, died Saturday. She was 75. Ferraro was serving in the House of Representatives for New York's 9th District when Walter Mondale asked her to be his running mate in 1984. The ticket made history. NPR's Guy Raz talks with former Colorado Congresswoman Pat Schroeder about her friendship with Ferraro.

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GUY RAZ, host:

We're back with ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Guy Raz.

Ms. GERALDINE FERRARO (Former Vice Presidential Candidate): Ladies and gentlemen of the convention, my name is Geraldine Ferraro.

(Soundbite of applause)

RAZ: Geraldine Ferraro's famous acceptance speech at the 1984 Democratic convention. When Walter Mondale selected her as his running mate, the two made history.

This morning, Geraldine Ferraro died. She was 75. For women across the country, Ferraro represented the possibility of change.

(Soundbite of political ad)

Ms. FERRARO: You want more for your kids than you had. And that's the American dream.

Unidentified Man #1: Mondale and Ferraro, bringing a new fairness to America.

RAZ: The Mondale-Ferraro ticket was defeated by Reagan-Bush in a landslide -they only carried one state. But Ferraro's legacy could be seen in the positions women eventually achieved in American politics.

One of her friends in Congress, and a leading advocate for women's equality, is former congresswoman Patricia Schroeder. She served for 25 years. And she joins me now, on the line from her home in Florida.

Congresswoman, thank you for being with us.

Ms. PATRICIA SCHROEDER (Former Democratic Representative, Colorado): Well, it's so nice to talk to you, although how - what a sad day this is. I - she's a very good friend of mine, and I last saw her just several months ago, at her 50th wedding anniversary. So it's very sad. She wanted to live even longer. And unfortunately, we don't get to pick that out, do we?

RAZ: She was, of course, diagnosed with cancer in 1998 and survived up until now. I wanted to ask you, Patricia Schroeder, if you could give us a sense of Geraldine Ferraro's impact on the role women would eventually play in American politics.

Ms. SCHROEDER: Well, you know, I thought she played such a prominent role. And people got so comfortable with seeing her on the ticket that I went out and said I didn't think we'd ever see a ticket without a woman, going forward. And obviously, I was very wrong.

But nevertheless, I do think that for many, many young girls across America, they saw her and they thought, hmm - you know - that's terrific. I could do that. And as you know, in 1992, we had a huge surge of women coming into the Congress. And I think a part of that was the fallout from the '84 campaign. It took them a little while to get organized and going. But once they did, they were ready. And I think that legacy is the most important. It was the role model. She could be a mother - she could be all this wonderful things - and she could also be a leader.

RAZ: Pat Schroeder, I want to play a clip of tape for you. This is from a 1984 vice presidential debate. This is between Ferraro and then-Vice President George H.W. Bush. Take a listen.

(Soundbite of vice presidential debate)

President GEORGE H.W. BUSH: Let me help you with the difference, Ms. Ferraro, between Iran and the embassy in Lebanon. Iran - we were held by a foreign government. In Lebanon, you had a wanton terrorist action, where the government opposed it.

Debate Moderator: Congresswoman Ferraro?

Ms. FERRARO: Let me just say, first of all, that I almost resent, Vice President Bush, your patronizing attitude - that you have to teach me about foreign policy.

RAZ: Pat Schroeder, was this a pivotal moment? I mean, when she stood up to Bush and called him on what sounded like a pretty patronizing tone?

Ms. SCHROEDER: Well, it was a patronizing tone. You could almost see him just thinking of her as a 5-year-old sitting on his knee, and he had to tell her: You just couldn't understand this, honey. And I thought it was wonderful that she called him on it rather than just politely glide over it.

Bless her heart. She was born and raised in New York, and she knew how to, you know, call him - and she called him. And that's why so many people really saluted her.

RAZ: Now, nearly 30 years after her bid, we have three women on the Supreme Court right now. We've had a woman speaker of the House, three secretaries of State, another vice presidential candidate. Is this the legacy of Gerry Ferraro?

Ms. SCHROEDER: Yes, I think it is. I think all of those things are part of her legacy. And I think, also, lots of other young women that we don't even know their names yet but are coming along, that saw her and were inspired. I just think about when I was growing up, there were no women in politics. It just never even occurred to me that you could go into politics. And I think Gerry really did that - she opened that for everybody.

RAZ: That's former Colorado congresswoman Patricia Schroeder. She served in the House of Representatives for nearly 25 years, and knew Geraldine Ferraro well. Pat Schroeder, thank you so much for your memories.

Pat Schroeder, thank you so much for your memories.

Ms. SCHROEDER: Thank you.

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