Geraldine Ferraro, First Woman VP Candidate, Dead at 75
WASHINGTON — US President Barack Obama led poignant tribute Saturday to Geraldine Ferraro, hailing the "trailblazer" who broke barriers when she became America's first female vice presidential candidate.
The former US congresswoman, who was catapulted to national prominence when Democrat Walter Mondale picked her as his running mate in the 1984 presidential race, died Saturday after a long battle with cancer. She was 75.
"Geraldine will forever be remembered as a trailblazer who broke down barriers for women, and Americans of all backgrounds and walks of life," Obama said in a statement.
Obama said his daughters Sasha and Malia "will grow up in a more equal America because of the life Geraldine Ferraro chose to live."
Condolences poured in rapidly from the political sphere, where members of Congress, former White House candidates and other notable figures fondly recalled how she opened doors for millions of American women.
Ferraro "was one of a kind -- tough, brilliant, and never afraid to speak her mind," read a joint statement from former president Bill Clinton and his wife, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Ferraro "paved the way for a generation of female leaders and put the first cracks in America's political glass ceiling," said the Clintons, praising her as "a true American original."
Democrat Nancy Pelosi, who was the most senior woman in US political history when she was speaker of the House of Representatives from 2007 to January 2011, described Ferraro as "a source of pride to all of us in Congress."
"She not only made history when she was nominated for vice president, she inspired women across the country to reach their own greatness as they strengthened our country," Pelosi said.
Former Republican president George H.W. Bush, who as vice president under Ronald Reagan trounced the Mondale/Ferraro ticket in 1984, also paid tribute.
"I admired Gerry in many ways, not the least of which was the dignified and principled manner she blazed new trails for women in politics," Bush said.
One of those political pioneers was Senator Barbara Mikulski, the longest-serving female US senator, who said Ferraro "made an indelible mark on our nation's history"
Mikulski, who arrived in Congress two years before Ferraro, said there were only 17 women in the US legislature at the time.
"We were the early birds. We weren't afraid to ruffle feathers," said Mikulski, now a Democratic senator from the state of Maryland.
Sarah Palin, the 2008 Republican vice presidential candidate who is flirting with a 2012 presidential run, said "the open doors that she has provided all women is pretty outstanding, and I'm so proud to have known her."
Ferraro encompassed "the pioneering spirit that America is all about," Palin said.
Copyright © 2011 AFP. All rights reserved.