Dianne Feinstein

Remembering Geraldine Ferraro - March 29, 2011

Dianne Feinstein
March 29, 2011— U.S. Senate, Washington, D.C.
Congressional floor speech
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U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, D-California, paid tribute to the life of Geraldine Ferraro in a speech on the Senate floor.

Madam President, I rise today to reflect on the life and legacy of Geraldine Ferraro who lost her heroic battle with cancer on Saturday.

Geraldine Ferraro was first elected to public office in 1978 to represent Queens in the U.S. House of Representatives.

As a member of the Public Works and Transportation Committee, she pushed to improve mass transit around La Guardia Airport.

Later, she would cosponsor the Economic Equity Act, which was intended to accomplish many of the aims of the never-ratified equal rights amendment.

In 1984, former Vice President and a distinguished Member of this body, Walter Mondale, chose Gerry to join him as his Vice Presidential running mate, the first woman to be placed on a national ticket.

I was privileged to serve as the mayor of San Francisco in 1984 where the Democratic Party held its convention that election year.

Twenty-seven years later, as I look back on that time, I realize what an important and historical moment her selection was to American politics.

I recall the emotion and enthusiasm of people--men and women--at the Moscone Center in San Francisco when Gerry took the podium.

Sixty-four years after women won the right to vote, Geraldine Ferraro represented a new beginning for our politics. It was an amazing feeling.

While the election didn't go the Democrats' way that year, Gerry's selection was a victory for a generation of young women who saw that anything is possible and no position in government has a ``men only'' sign on the door.

As the first Vice Presidential nominee of a major party, she not only put a crack in the glass ceiling that year, she demonstrated the dedication and the competence of women in the political arena.

I didn't know her well, but I do know her experiences well.

I know how tough it was as a woman running for political office--only to find out everyone else was discussing the style of your outfit.

I know how tough it was to be one of the first elected officials to speak using phrases like, As a mother,'' orIf I were pregnant .....''

I know how tough it was as a woman debating men in political debates and then when it was over, debating a dozen reporters.

I know how tough it was as a woman who fought and won for change to live to see other women make a dozen other cracks in that glass ceiling.

But the same ideals Geraldine Ferraro fought for during her public life are the same ideals we fight for today.

It would be another 24 years after that night in San Francisco before another woman from a major party was nominated for Vice President.

And even though Hillary Rodham Clinton came close to being nominated in 2008 as the Democratic Presidential candidate, a woman has yet to occupy the Oval Office.

There are only 16 other women besides myself serving in the U.S. Senate. In the 435 Member House, just 71 are women. And just six States have women Governors.

Despite these statistics today, Geraldine Ferraro's career and example gave women across the country hope and heart.

At the time when Gerry Ferraro and I were in office, people had reservations about women in office. So the press pushed you further and further--just to see how smart you were or how you would react.

When I was mayor, I had to do more homework than my counterparts; I had to be prepared for every possible question--more questions and detail than my counterparts.

There was a judgment that women were not effective. But that judgment of effectiveness has changed.

It took some time, but women in office have shown we are capable of offering legislation, working to pass it, and being just as effective as our male counterparts.

Geraldine Ferraro gave it her all. She gave women everywhere an example of determination. She continued that drive when she supported other women in national office.

And she will continue to give us all hope and heart for decades to come in her place in history.