When she was nominated as the Democratic Party's vice presidential candidate in 1984, Geraldine Ferraro became the best known woman in American politics.
Although her vice presidential campaign ended in failure when she and Walter Modale lost to Ronald Regan and George Bush, Ferraro remains a symbol of equality for many women.
Ferraro has spent most of her time since the 1984 campaign travelling across the country raising money for Democrats and women candidates. This spring, as a fellow at the Institute of Politics (IOP), she will also be teaching at Harvard.
Her study group entitled "So You Want to be President?" examines the process of campaigning for the nation's highest elective office. "Obviously, I'm not teaching how to be president," Ferraro says. "But what I am trying to do is tell you about presidential campaigns from the inside. And what we will do is each week take a different facet of the campaing."
Insiders' information on campaigns and Ferraro's renown have combined to make her study group a very popular one. IOP organizers limited participation to Harvard affiliates in an effort to reduce the crowds.
Despite her fellowship, Ferraro will only spend part of each week in Cambridge, she says. She is currently very involved in raising money for the Democratic Pary victory fund, which goes toward the campaign of the 1988 Democratic presidential nominee.
As a result of her job, however, Ferraro will not say which candidate she hopes will win in the Democratic primaries.
"I am supporting whoever the Democratic nominee is in July," Ferraro says." I will not pick a candidate before that time except when I go in with a secret ballot and pick him myself in the voting booth in the primaries in New York."
"If I'm going to go out to women's groups throughout the country to ask them to contribute to the fund, I kind of have to be in a position to ask supporters of Gov. [Michael S.] Dukakis, Sen. [Paul] Simon--I have to ask everybody. And I don't want to be in a position where I'm supporting just one candidate. So this will put me in a better position to raise money," Ferraro says.
Although the 1984 campaign brought Ferraro national fame, it also created long-lasting problems, says the former congressman from Queens, New York.
The Justice Department investigated her campaign finances for 22 months. The strain and time commitment required by the investigation, Ferraro says, were major factors in her decision not to run against incumbent Sen. Alfonse D'Amato (R-N.Y.) in 1986.
Because she was no longer a candidate herself, Ferraro decided to help other women in their attempts to seek public office. In 1985, she formed Americans Concerned for Tomorrow Political Action Committee (ACTPAC), a political fund raising committee that concentrated on getting Democrats elected to Congress in 1986. The group focused its efforts on 10 women candidates for Congress, eight of whom were elected.
Given her interest in female politicians, Ferraro says she is disappointed that no women are running for president in 1988.
"I would like to have seen a woman running for president for both parties," she says. "I wish [Rep.] Pat [Schroeder (D-Col.)] had run, I would like to have seen Jeanne Kirkpatrick [former United Nations ambassador] run. I think that the more we see women running, the more used to it we're going to get, and I think the closer we come to having a woman on the ticket."
While at the University, Ferraro says she is doing more than just teaching. "I am also the recipient of a good deal of information which comes from a great deal of talent which resides at this university. And so I'm really pleased to have the resources available to me that I can tap for subjects I'm interested in," she says.
Ferraro will also bring her own political contacts to Harvard. In her study group, Ferraro says she plans to have different speakers from the world of politics and the press to supplement her own inside view.
"We'll do that with the press, with polling, with advertising, and we'll spend one whole session dealing with women and where we are in presidential politics, but not only as candidates, where we are in campaigns, the influence of the women's vote, things like that," Ferraro says.
When Ferraro completes her term as an IOP fellow this spring, she says she will continue to raise money for the election. "After the convention, I will do whatever the candidate wants me to," she says. "Travelling, raising money, giving speeches, anything. Licking stamps, anything they want me to do I will do to elect a Democrat in '88."
"After that," Ferraro says, "I have no idea what I'm going to do. I have offers to go to a law firm, and that's a very real possibility. In the immediate future, I do not see myself running for public office. I do not know what the future holds."