Walter Mondale made history by choosing Geraldine Ferraro as first female running mate on a major party ticket

Walter Mondale/ Geraldine Ferraro
On Wednesday, Sept. 5, 1984, Democratic presidential candidate Walter Mondale and his running mate, Geraldine Ferraro, wave as they leave an afternoon rally in Portland, Ore.

  • Former Vice President Walter Mondale died Monday at the age of 93.
  • Mondale served as Jimmy Carter’s vice president before running for president himself in 1984.
  • During his campaign, Mondale made history by selecting Geraldine Ferraro as his running mate.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Former Vice President Walter Mondale, who died Monday at the age of 93, made history during his 1984 presidential run when he chose Rep. Geraldine Ferraro of New York as his running mate.

Though then President Ronald Reagan handily defeated Mondale and Ferraro, the Minnesota politician was a pioneer as the first presidential candidate on a major party ticket to choose a female running mate – nearly four decades before Vice President Kamala Harris became the first woman sworn into the office.

“Our founders said in the Constitution, ‘We the people’ – not just the rich, or men, or white, but all of us,” Mondale said after he announced the three-term congresswoman as his running mate, according to Politico.

Mondale had reportedly sought to make history with his choice, the outlet reported, considering African American lawmakers and a Hispanic lawmaker among other candidates.

“The Ferraro pick represented the intersection of principle and politics,” Joel K. Goldstein, vice-presidential historian, professor of law emeritus at St. Louis University said in his book “The White House Vice Presidency: The Path to Significance, Mondale to Biden.”

“Walter Mondale’s public service was dedicated to opening doors for disadvantaged groups and he constructed his VP selection process consistent with that commitment.”

In addition to her gender, Ferraro’s ethnicity made history as well. She was the first Italian-American nominee on a major party ticket.

Mondale’s pick was initially met with enthusiasm and praise, giving the ticket a bump in the polls, but questions about Ferraro and her husband’s finances became a liability as the campaign went on.

In November, Mondale and Ferraro lost in a landslide, receiving only 41% of the popular vote and losing every state in the Electoral College except the District of Columbia and Mondale’s home state of Minnesota. The ticket also lost Ferraro’s district in New York.

Reflecting on his decision in his 2010 book, “The Good Fight,” Mondale said he thought Ferraro would be “an excellent vice president and could be a good president. …I also knew that I was far behind Reagan and that if I just ran a traditional campaign, I would never get in the game.”

In the book, Mondale also said his wife of nearly 60 years, Joan, had encouraged him to choose a female running mate.

“Joan thought we were far enough along in the movement for women’s rights that the political system had produced plenty of qualified candidates, and she thought voters were ready for a ticket that would break the white-male mold.”

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