In 1966, Inez Casiano helped found the National Organization for Women, a standard bearer of the last decade's tide of feminism. Last night as she looked around the balcony of the Capital Yacht Club, she asserted that women's group were needed as much as ever.
"In the 1960s I viewed women as powerless if we didn't work together. That hasn't changed," said Casiano, one of the members of the D.C. Coalition for Women. "The difference is that the base of this group is broader, reaching out the secretaries as well as the quasi-managers."
Like many of the 300 people who turned out for the coalition's salute to women appointees in the city government, Casiano, a Department of Labor employment specialist, has adopted the softer steps of the 1970's. It might be called th einsider's approach. Since its founding in 1977, the coalition has been monitoring appointments in the local government and memebrs have met several times with Marion Barry, as candidate and mayor. Last night they applauded the mayor on his "competent, compassionate and sensitive" appointments.
"I'm happy, but a lot more needs to be done," said Barry, reviewing last week's report of the D.C. Commission on the Status of Women that cautiously praised his appointment record do far. Barry pointed out one inequity in the city's record. "It has been brought to my attention by Anita Shelton, my human rights director, that of the 1,300 people in DHR, 97 percent are women and the majority of those are chore aides who earn $2 or less a hour. We're going to try to make that [their salary] at least the minimum wage."
Though there has been some friction from rival women's groups, last night's salute attracted a cross section of women. In a short time the coalition, which is headed by Helen Helfer and Andrea McCombs, has attracted senior citizens like Deborah Cohen, a retired social workers; Sandra Nathan, a 30-year-old program specialist for the aged; and Marie Drissel, a 32-year-old management analyst for HUD. "I think we're on new grounds, provinding the support system for the women who gained their jobs because of past protests," said Drissel.