On July 4, 1984 I was one of 23 elected and appointed women leaders who called on Senator Walter Mondale (Dem. MN) in Minneapolis-St. Paul hoping to convince him to choose a woman as his vice-presidential nominee.
We did not ask for a particular woman but we did speak strongly in favor of a woman vice-president. The rest is history since he chose Geraldine Ferraro as his running mate.
The women involved in meeting with Mondale were strong and experienced believers in women’s leadership capabilities, recognizing the potential women offer for more balance in the political world. Mondale's selection of Ferraro a week later gave us hope for the future of women leaders but it took 27 years for it to happen once again.
Gerry Ferraro has always been known for her candor, something that is not always appreciated by politicians and many cultural leaders. It seems that the “family secrets” are supposed to remain just that: secret. Sensitive issues, especially sexism and racism, are taboo because society has worn blinders on those subjects for centuries on end.
In 2008 when Gerry commented that Obama’s candidacy was historic, she was immediately attacked as a racist. Here is how she responded (and it is an outstanding example of her no-nonsense candor):
"Why is his candidacy historic? Can you give me another reason why it is an historic campaign? Why are we afraid to say this? I am absolutely stunned by this whole thing. I’m not saying he isn’t qualified, never did I say that. He is very smart. He has experience issues, but if George Bush can learn to run the country, so can this guy."
What is significant in her statement is that she pointed out many times in the last 27 years that her selection as the vice-presidential nominee by Mondale was based on her being female.
Lynn Sherr, former ABC News correspondent and author, writes in The Daily Beast March 26 about Gerry’s comments election night when the Mondale candidacy carried only his home state of Minnesota:
"The days of discrimination are numbered," she said. "American women will never be second-class citizens again."
Ferraro’s wisdom about her candidacy is revealed in her New York Times obituary today. She wrote a letter to the Times about her place in history in 1988 by pointing out that she would not have been selected by Mondale if she had not been a female. On the political realities of 1984, she candidly addressed the Reagan factor by saying that he had been at the height of his popularity, the economy was moving again, inflation and interest rates were down. The final clincher:
"Throwing Ronald Reagan out of office…..(at that time)….would have required God on the ticket…and She was not available."
Even today, in 2011, the United States remains one of only three major countries without ever having a woman at the helm (the others are Italy and Japan).
It is time to correct this long-standing problem by remembering Geraldine Ferraro's legacy to women and to the world.
Note: Many years have passed and I do not remember all the people at the Mondale meeting but I do remember Lt. Gov. Marlene Johnson (MN), Judy Goldsmith, president of NOW, and Bob Bechtel, Democratic party consultant and Fox News consultant, like Gerry.