Geraldine Ferraro (D-NY) died earlier today at Massachusetts General Hospital surrounded by her loved ones. She was 75. The cause of death was complications of multiple myeloma, a blood cancer she had been fighting for 12 years.

In 1984, Ferraro was the three term House Representative from District 9 in Queens NY. After being endorsed for the Vice Presidency by Tip O’Neill, Ferraro was plucked from obscurity by Walter Mondale for his doomed run against Ronald Reagan at the peak of his popularity. She was the first woman to be nominated for Vice President in a major US political party, and quickly faced hard questions about her finances and those of her husband. When she finally released her financial records it was found that the working class mom owned four vacation homes and was richer than Vice President George H. W. Bush, who was characterized as a man of wealth. Investigations substantiated the accusations and the Federal Election Committee fined her 1978 campaign committee for improper use of funds while the House ethics committee determined her financial disclosures were inadequate.

She served in other government positions since then. Notably she was the US ambassador on the UN Human Rights Commission during Bill Clinton’s presidency. She also ran twice for NY Senator, losing in the 1992 primary to Robert Abrams and in 1998 to Chuck Schumer. From 1996 to 1998 she co-hosted “Crossfire” on CNN. During the 2008 presidential campaign other Democrats accused her of racism when she said Barack Obama would not have won the nomination against Hillary Clinton if he were a white man. Since the 2008 campaign she has served as a Fox News contributor.

Her experience under the spotlight in 1984 presaged the much more intense and personal attacks against another obscure woman who ran for Vice President on a weak ticket 24 years after Ferraro’s unsuccessful bid. Palin had this to say about Ferraro on her passing.

My family and I would like to express our sincere condolences to the family of Geraldine Ferraro. When I had the honor of working alongside Geraldine on election night last year, we both discussed the role of women in politics and our excited expectation that someday that final glass ceiling would be shattered by the election of a woman president. She was an amazing woman who dedicated her life to public service as a teacher, prosecutor, Congresswoman, and Vice Presidential candidate. She broke one huge barrier and then went on to break many more. The world will miss her. May she rest in peace and may her example of hard work and dedication to America continue to inspire all women.

Requiescat in Pace, Geraldine Ferraro

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