In retrospect, and even at the time, Geraldine Ferraro had very little chance of being elected Vice President of the United States in 1984, up against ‘the great communicator’ and the first George Bush. But she gave it her best shot and made history by being the first woman to compete for the second highest political office in the land.
This ‘phenomenon’ of being the ‘first woman, etc’ was both an advantage and a disadvantage. It got her publicity and made her something of a novelty act, but it also brought a type of intense scrutiny that a male contender would not have attracted. On the matter of dress: “… there are things that happen … for instance, if you’re walking along in a parade and you raise your arm and your slip shows, people might be critical of you. No guy has a problem like that …” And those constant boquets of flowers on arrival – “On the one hand, there was Geraldine Ferraro, a person who loves flowers. On the other hand, there was Geraldine Ferraro, the vice-presidential candidate who was not going to walk around looking like a bridesmaid. So I’d thank the donor very much and instantly hand the lowers to Eleanor [her assistant].”
More serious was the way her husband and his business affairs were brought into the frame in an attempt to find something irregular. And of course, business being business, something was found, which although rather minor, was magnified in the context of his wife’s drive for the VP office. Serious also was her weakness on issues like abortion because, although a practising Roman Catholic, she was, like many American female practising Catholics, pro-choice. Needless to say this brought her into conflict with her Church and seriously damaged her among co-religionists. Hardened two-term congresswoman though she was, she felt personally hurt by this, quoting President John F. Kennedy: “I do not speak for my Church on public matters – and the Church does not speak for me.”
Geraldine Ferraro died in 2011 at the age of 75 after a long battle with cancer. She didn’t make it to the White House but she did make history. This is a well-written account of one of the toughest and most demanding campaign trails in the world. All the tougher when you’re a woman, but Geraldine was up for it. Her fighting spirit and warm personality is well served by this book and the roller-coaster nature of the whole adventure is fascinating. Recommended reading.