Ferraro was from Newburgh, New York and served in the US House. She was a progressive Democrat. She ran for Vice President with Walter Mondale. She was the first woman, and the first Italian American (which in those days meant more than it does today) to do so.
The fact that she was a woman was used against the Democratic ticket by a fairly conservative press (never quite forgave Ted Koppel for being a dick about it all) and, of course, by the Repulbicans.
In those days (and still to some extent, today) powerful men attach themselves to women who will not give them too much trouble by having, like, opinions and experience and stuff. That way, all the bad shit the man is into can be more easily hidden from the prying eyes of the press and public. But when a woman ran for office, she would have this husband, and he would have a life, and thus, there would be two people to be scrutinized. This as also considered important, I assume, because of a barely subconscious presumption that a woman in elected office would be influenced by her husband, while a man in elected office would be assisted by his wife.
This worked against Ferraro as Republican dirty tricksters implied that the Italian candidate and her Italian husband were unscrupulous. There were even mob-connection implications, which were absurd. The press and the Republicans screamed when Ferraro’s husband refused to release his own business financial information (it was not required by law) and this became the major issue in the campaign. They were eventually forced to release this information. It was fairly uninteresting.
No one can remember what else happened that year, but women were subsequently excluded form serious consideration in the presidential arena thereafter. I personally feel that this was the basis for what would become a growing commitment on the part of the right wing to this sort of strategy to keep progressives, women, and non-whites out of politics. It was, in essence, a first draft of today’s birther strategy.
The next woman to run on a national ticket was the only other one ever in the US: Sarah Palin. I apologize for uttering that name in a blog post on Geraldine Ferraro.