Geraldine Ferraro was remembered as a political trailblazer and a devoted mother and friend Thursday at a funeral that drew such dignitaries as former President Bill Clinton, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi.
Ferraro made history as the first woman on a major party ticket when Democrat Walter Mondale chose her as his running mate in 1984. She died Saturday of a blood cancer called multiple myeloma. She was 75.
Hundreds of mourners packed the Church of St. Vincent Ferrer on Lexington Avenue near East 66th Street in Manhattan for a funeral Mass that had nine eulogies: both Clintons; Mondale, a former vice president; Maryland Democratic Sen. Barbara Mikulski; former California Democratic Rep. Jane Harman; former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, and Ferraro's three children, Donna, John and Laura.
Ferraro was married for 50 years to John Zaccaro, a New York real estate developer. They had eight grandchildren.
The 21/2 hour ceremony was closed to the media, but attendees described it as a warm, loving celebration of Ferraro's life.
"It was one of the most beautiful services I have ever seen," said Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas.
Mondale praised Ferraro for inspiring other women to run for office. He noted there are now six women governors, 88 women in the House and 17 women in the Senate, compared with just one in 1984.
"It wasn't just politics that was reset. Change can be seen everywhere in American life," Mondale said, adding that her experience as the first woman vice presidential candidate had given Ferraro strength she would later use in her 12-year cancer battle.
"Every day she was patronized in a way not experienced by her male counterparts," he said. "But she would not relent. She came back each day tougher and better."
Albright told reporters she and Ferraro had been close friends since 1984, when Albright was brought aboard as a foreign policy adviser to Ferraro during the campaign.
Albright recalled a moment during a policy briefing when Ferraro whispered something privately to her.
"All the men were thinking, 'What were we doing, what were we changing on policy?' " Albright said. "We never told anyone what she had said, and she was asking me if I would lend her my half-slip."