Reprinted from yesterday's late editions
Shirley Davis does not look like your stereotypical crusader. She is middle-aged, slightly plump, has red hair the color of Lucille Ball's, penciled-in eyebrows and tends toward soft beige skirts, flowered blouses and pink nail polish.
She didn't start out to be a crusader when she came up from Monroe, La., to Washington four years ago. She had been recruited by former Louisiana rep. Otto Passman to work with what she thought was the promise of becoming his administrative assistant.
Six months later, however, Passman dismissed her with a letter that said in so many words that Capitol Hill was a man's world.
"On account of the unusually heavy workload . . ." wrote Passman, "I concluded that it was essential that the understudy to my administrative assistant be a man. I believe that you will agree with this conclusion."
Davis, however, didn't agree. Instead she filed suit against Passman, charging sex bias in his employment practices. She is seeking $10,000 in damages.
Monday night 70 or so supporters rallied to her cause at $10 a head at a party sponsored by the Capitol Hill Women's Political Caucus. The Childe Harold donated the facilities and the group Off Balance provided the music.Davis appeared a little flustered over all this excitement about her.
"I'm not used to all this support," she said said, "but I love it." Since Passman's letter, she said, she has lived in Monroe even though she was unable to get a job until a few months ago. She has used loans from friends and grants to study hospital administration at Northeastern Louisiana State University.
"I didn't do this, said Davis, "because I thought Passman was a chauvinist. In fact I don't know that I think he is. I just think I was unjustly fired. At first I was shocked. And then humiliation set in. Monroe is a small town and it was well publicized that I was coming up here to work for him. When I wasn't anymore - well, how much pride can you take in having everybody in town know you've been fired?"
Members of Congress are exempt from the Civil Rights Act.
"If it were anybody but someone on the Hill," said Rep. Pat Schroeder (D-Col.), who dropped in Monday night, "and they said, 'We're sorry you're fired because you're not a man' it just wouldn't work. Shirley's is just flat out discrimination."
Olga Grkavac, legislative assistant to Edward Markey (D-Mass.) and chairman of the Capitol Hill Women's Political Caucus, said she had no problem in her offfice but it took her the first 18 months of a now six-year Capitol Hill career to "realize in terms of rights, women on the Hill had none . . ."