Geraldine A. Ferraro's pioneering candidacy for vice president last year was a "personal agony that at times would seem almost unbearable," but the effort was "well worth it" because it expanded "by a thousandfold" options available to women.
In her forthcoming book, "Ferraro: My Story," excerpted this week in Newsweek magazine, Ferraro also writes that she was not "prepared for the depth of the fury, the bigotry and the sexism my candidacy would unleash."
On that score, she criticizes the Italian American community, which "abandoned me by their silence"; Roman Catholic Cardinal John O'Connor of New York, who acted like a "strident . . . single-issue bishop" on abortion, and the campaign staff of Democratic presidential nominee Walter F. Mondale, who, she writes, took a patronizing attitude toward her because of her gender.
The former House member from Queens blamed herself for the worst crisis of her campaign -- the flap over her family finances. She said she fueled the controversy by mistakenly approving a news release promising that her husband, John Zaccaro, would release his tax returns -- a step she says he had made clear to her and top Mondale staffers that he did not intend to take.
Ferraro proceeded to make matters worse, she wrote, by making a "political novice" crack to the effect that "people who are married to Italian men" would understand their independence about such matters.
The memoirs, to be published by Bantam Books, also reveal:
*That she asked Mondale to take her name out of consideration for the vice-presidential nomination on July 8 -- three days before Mondale selected her. At the time, she writes, her "Italian blood was really boiling" about leaked news accounts from Mondale staffers that said she had come off badly in the interview process Mondale conducted at his home in North Oaks, Minn. She said Mondale refused to let her withdraw, assured her the leaks would cease and three days later asked her to be his running mate.
Mondale's senior adviser, John Reilly, said yesterday that he knew of no request by Ferraro that her name be withdrawn.
*That Reilly asked her in 1983 to serve as national chair of the campaign. She refused, on the advice both of her husband and of House Speaker Thomas P. (Tip) O'Neill Jr. (D-Mass.), who suggested that she keep her options open.
Reilly said yesterday that he had "discussed" the possibility of a chairmanship with Ferraro.
*That the tension of the campaign was so great she started to bite her nails and eat compulsively, gaining 13 pounds. "I had never thought of myself as a neurotic person, but it was hard for me to decide whether I was developing a persecution complex or whether I was, indeed, being persecuted."
*That a group of Washington-based feminists, which dubbed itself "Team A," spent more than a year laying the groundwork for her selection -- first by working to legitimize the idea of a female candidate with opinion leaders, and later, by lobbying specifically for her.
If the 14 pages of excepts in Newsweek are a fair guide, the book pays lip service to the "highs" of the campaign, then spends most of its energy reliving the lows.
Of the antiabortion protesters who dogged her throughout the campaign, Ferraro writes, "Never have so many people spent so much time and money trying to discredit the second slot on a presidential ticket."
Of the Mondale staff, she says that when she bristled at their early efforts to dictate her schedule, Mondale became "beet red" with anger. "They're not used to dealing with a woman, but they're going to have to learn," she recalls telling her running mate after one staff meeting. "To help them along, let me suggest that . . . they pretend every time they talk to me or even look at me that I'm a gray-haired southern gentleman, a senator from Texas."
Told of the account, Robert Beckel, Mondale's campaign manager, said yesterday that he remembers the tensions. He attributed them not to "feminist issues" but to there having been "a lot of tired, overworked people with a whole lot to do in a short period of time."