Geraldine Ferraro And Her 'Moment In History'

Host Liane Hansen discusses with NPR's Cokie Roberts the career of Geraldine Ferraro, the first woman to be nominated for vice president in the U.S. Ferraro died on Saturday at age 75. Roberts remembers the atmosphere the 1984 Democratic convention when Walter Mondale named Ferraro as his running mate.

Ms. GERALDINE FERRARO: My fellow citizens, I proudly accept your nomination for vice president of the United States.

(Soundbite of applause)

LIANE HANSEN, host:

Americans had not heard a woman from a major political party utter those words until 1984, when Geraldine Ferraro made history at the Democratic National Convention.

NPR's Cokie Roberts was there and she joins us with a few memories of Geraldine Ferraro, who died yesterday at 75. Good morning, Cokie.

COKIE ROBERTS: Hello, Liane.

HANSEN: You were at the Democratic convention in 1984 when Ferraro was named Walter Mondale's running mate. Remind us of the atmosphere at that convention.

ROBERTS: Oh, it was incredible. You know, it swept through San Francisco the night before, maybe two days before, that she was going to be the pick. And there was a tremendous amount of excitement among the women particularly that there was actually going to be a female on the ticket. And then when she came into the convention hall to make her speech, this tiny figure in white up there on the podium, the women in the room really were just undone with excitement and emotion, many people in tears.

And I do confess that I went over to a colleague from ABC who was covering the campaign and squeezed her hand. We had been college dorm mates and even though we were covering it and dispassionate on air, it was a moment - it was a moment in women's history.

HANSEN: Now, why was Geraldine Ferraro chosen as the running mate. What did she bring to the ticket? Was she a standout in Congress?

ROBERTS: She was really quite new in Congress but she was Catholic, ethnic and that was a group of Democrats that had been defecting to Ronald Reagan. And she was from the big state of New York, which if it delivered her would have been a huge plus for the Democrats, particularly with Mondale hailing from Minnesota. But, of course, none of that worked.

Even though the women's vote had been growing and growing and the Democrats had been paying attention to it, the day after the election in 1984, when the Mondale-Ferraro ticket lost 49 states, everybody went back to worrying about the white male vote.

HANSEN: What was Geraldine Ferraro's career like after that loss?

ROBERTS: She went on as just a feisty, funny woman who was very dedicated to the promotion of women in politics. And so she went to work for Hillary Clinton in the 2008 campaign, and unfortunately during that campaign made a remark about Barack Obama that was uncomfortable for the Clinton forces and she withdrew from the campaign.

But she continued on as a political commentator and, as I say, a great fighter for women in politics.

HANSEN: NPR's Cokie Roberts. Thank you very much.

ROBERTS: Thank you, Liane.

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