Sometimes we must take a step back to thank those who helped us get where we are today. Geraldine A Ferraro is not a particularly well recognized name. Yet, she blazed the trail for famous women in leadership. Ferraro was the first woman to run for vice president in the United States. While she might not have found victory, she took on the weight of being the first. In many ways this is a triumph all its own. Ferraro believed that “some leaders are born women” and she successfully shifted the nation further towards sharing her mind set.
Ferraro’s Fight for Human Rights
Geraldine Ferraro was born and raised in New York City. Before entering law, she was a public school teacher. Her career soon turned political. Ferraro joined the Queens County District Attorney’s Office in 1974, heading up the new Special Victims Bureau. This is where her fight against sex crimes, child abuse, and domestic violence began. Her pursuit reached new heights when, in 1978, Ferraro was elected to the House. She quickly gained influence. Ferraro pushed for legislation to bring equity for women in the areas of wages, pensions, and retirement plans.
In 1984 Ferraro broke through a new barrier. She joined presidential candidate, Walter Mondale, as the democratic vice presidential candidate. On top of being the first female major-party national nominee, Ferraro was also the first Italian American. Mondale and Ferraro were already underdogs and found themselves facing the formidable pair, President Reagan and Vice President George H. W. Bush. Mondale and Ferraro lost. Nonetheless, the wheels were set in motion. From then on, women were to be considered formidable adversaries at the highest level of power in America. Former Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi once said, “Winning or losing of the election is less important than strengthening the country.”
The Retirement Equity Act
Ferraro’s nomination for Vice President was a feat all its own; however her Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) legacy is deserving of high commendation. Ten years after ERISA, Ferraro authored the Retirement Equity Act of 1984 (REA). She designed the act to protect participants’ spouses, who were mostly women, from losing retirement benefits earned by their husbands. REA provides protection by amending ERISA in several important ways to:
- Permit employees to leave and return to a job without sacrificing their pension credits built up
- Provide protection against loss of participation and vesting credits when a woman or man is absent for specified parental reasons
- Require plans to provide automatic survivor benefits for spouses of vested participants even if the participant dies before retirement
- Prevent employees from waiving survivor benefits without written consent of their spouses.
Geraldine Ferraro, Champ or Chump?
We applaud Geraldine Ferraro for her contribution to federal retirement statutes and wealth preservation. We also honor her role as the first female vice presidential candidate. If you want to be a Legacy Champ in your own special way, contact The Mendel Law Firm, L.P. for a free initial consultation on estate planning, trust planning, and/or probate issues.
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