BREAKING THE FORGOTTEN GLASS CEILING: HOW GERALDINE FERRARO BECAME THE FIRST WOMAN VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE
Geraldine Ferraro broke a formerly impenetrable glass ceiling when she became the first woman on a major party ticket in U.S. history as Walter Mondale’s running mate in 1984. However, scant attention has been paid to the circumstance surrounding her historic nomination. This study therefore addresses the question: what unique social, political, and personal factors contributed to Ferraro’s viability as a vice presidential candidate? Using analysis from contemporaneous newspaper articles, this thesis argues that while Ferraro had the backing of feminist groups and women politicians who were advocating for a woman Democratic vice presidential candidate, it was her additional ability to garner the support of the more influential male-dominated Democratic Washington establishment that made her a viable running mate for Mondale. Women’s groups were advocating for any woman vice presidential candidat —not one woman in particular. However, Ferraro’s traditional rise through party hierarchy and insider status on Capitol Hill was atypical amongst women politicians and distinguished her from other potential women candidates at that time. Additional factors contributed to Ferraro’s selection, such as her proven political competency from past leadership positions, her ethnic, working-class background, and her confident, decisive personal demeanor. While Ferraro’s candidacy was a watershed for women’s rights, it would be another 24 years before another woman would be nominated to a major party ticket. Furthermore, Ferraro’s historic role is not salient in public memory. This thesis seeks to emphasize the importance of her momentous nomination and bring to light the fact that women have been rare in the highest rungs of political power and continue to face differential treatment because of their gender. Representation is important, and Ferraro provided a model to the American public—especially its female members—of a woman who could achieve success in a space that had been traditionally labeled as male-only.