Ferraro was born August 26, 1935, in Newburgh, New York, the fourth child of a tight-knit family enjoying prosperity. The good life did not last. When she was eight, her father, Dominick Ferraro, an Italian immigrant and successful restaurant and dime-store owner, died of a heart attack. Two of Ferraro's brothers had preceded him in death. Bad investments left her mother, Antonetta L. Corrieri, nearly broke. The three surviving family members—Ferraro, her mother, and a brother—moved into a small apartment in the Bronx. Ferraro's mother supported them by crocheting, and managed to give Ferraro an education at the exclusive Catholic school for girls, Marymount. The bright girl excelled, and a scholarship to Marymount College followed, where she earned a bachelor's degree in English in 1956. For the next four years, she taught in Queens public schools by day and took classes at Fordham University Law School by night.
As the first woman candidate for vice president of the United States in a major party, Geraldine Anne Ferraro expanded opportunities for women in national politics. Her place on the Democratic ticket as Walter F. Mondale's running mate in 1984 broke a gender barrier that had lasted for over two hundred years. Although Mondale and Ferraro lost to RONALD REAGAN and GEORGE H. W. BUSH, Ferraro proved herself a capable and dynamic campaigner. Her selection came on the strength of a highly visible three terms in the House of Representatives, from 1978 to 1984, during which she championed liberal positions, wrote legislation aimed at establishing economic EQUITY for women, and oversaw the drafting of the Democratic Party’s 1984 presidential platform.