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Ferraro found energized rally in Spokane

It was just days after the 1984 Democratic National Convention, when she’d been named the first woman vice presidential candidate on a major party’s ticket, that Geraldine Ferraro did Spokane.

For those who can’t remember back that far, think of 2008, when another relatively obscure female elected official was a surprise addition to the Republican ticket. There are plenty of differences between Ferraro and Sarah Palin, to be sure, but the level of interest the two generated in those first few weeks of campaigning was about the same.

And Ferraro was sent on a Northwest swing, hitting Spokane for a late afternoon rally in the Davenport lobby, then overnighting at what was then the Sheraton Hotel before flying to Portland. A crowd estimated at 2,500 packed the main floor and mezzanine, and whether the Davenport’s air conditioning either couldn’t keep up or was just nonexistent, I can’t remember. But it was hot, Ferraro was running late and a few people were starting to pass out before she arrived.

She noticed a sign in the crowd that said “Jane Wyman was right, Dump Reagan,” read it for a laugh and gave a rally speech that was sometimes hard to hear over the cheering. Outside, a group from the Montana Democratic Party was hawking a poster that featured Ferraro as the key character in Delacroix’s painting of Liberty Leading the People. (Mondale had a smaller role in the poster, with a stovepipe hat and a musket that sported an ERA sign.) The Montanans had printed 20,000 posters, which were going so fast they’d ordered another 50,000.

In an interview the next morning, Ferraro was asked what she thought of the poster, which she had been autographing for the national press corps assigned to her campaign. She laughed and said she was glad it was altered a bit – the original Lady Liberty was bare from the waist up.

She talked about how she wasn’t going to be the “attack dog” of the campaign, a role assigned to Bob Dole in 1976. But when talking about all of Ronald Reagan’s policies that she thought were wrong, it was hard not to go a bit on the attack, she added.

When the interview was over and her press aides were saying the bus was about to leave for the airplane, she looked out the Sheraton window, across the Spokane River to the east and asked about the twin steeples. St. Al’s at Gonzaga, she was told.

And that odd-shaped building a few blocks this way? The Museum of Native American Cultures, which has a great collection of Indian artifacts, I said.

“I’d like to see that someday,” she said. “If I win, I’ll come back and you can show it to me.”

She didn’t win, of course, and the campaign was as brutal to her and her family as the 2008 campaign would be to Palin.

As far as I know she never returned to Spokane, which is too bad. The MONAC isn’t a museum anymore, but there’s a great collection at the Museum of Arts and Culture. And the Davenport is much nicer … the air conditioning actually works.

The posters sell on eBay from time to time for $35 to $50.

Geraldine Ferraro died Saturday of blood cancer at age 75.