A family friend acting as a representative said Ferraro, who was diagnosed with blood cancer in 1998, died Saturday at Massachusetts General Hospital.
"To us, she was a wife, mother, grandmother and aunt, a woman devoted to and deeply loved by her family. Her courage and generosity of spirit throughout her life waging battles big and small, public and personal, will never be forgotten and will be sorely missed," said Ferraro's family through a statement.
Ferraro started out her career as an attorney before taking a job as an assistant Queens District attorney in 1974. In 1978, she won the first of three terms in Congress representing Queens.
Ferraro ran on the Democratic ticket with Walter Mondale in 1984. Mondale chose her to run with him against incumbents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush.
In the end, Reagan won 49 of the 50 states, the largest landslide in nearly half a century.
Some observers said legal troubles involving her husband and son were a drag on Ferraro's later political ambitions, which included her unsuccessful bids for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate in New York in 1992 and 1998.
Ferraro, a supporter of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, was back in the news in March 2008 when she stirred up a controversy by appearing to suggest that Sen. Barack Obama achieved his status in the presidential race only because he's black.
She later stepped down from an honorary post in the Clinton campaign, but insisted she meant no slight against Obama.
Ferraro is survived by her husband, John Zaccaro, and her three grown children and their spouses.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.