Geraldine Ferraro was the first woman to ever make it on a major party ticket, running as the vice presidential candidate with Walter Mondale in 1984. The daughter of an Italian immigrant father and a first generation Italian American mother she was first woman in her family to earn a college degree. Geraldine taught in the New York public schools, then became a lawyer, and next a prosecutor (think Law and Order SVU). In 1978 she was elected to Congress and put her focus on women's equality issues primarily wages, pensions, and retirement. In 1984 she became not only the first woman but the first Italian American ever nominated to a major party ballot. Later in life she became the US Ambassador to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights and continued her life as a journalist, businesswoman, and author.
Here is her acceptance speech for the nomination of VP, its pretty good.