In a house where the eminent ghosts of past women's right flicker among the candlebra, the birthday of suffragette Alice Paul was celebrated yesterday with champagne and conversation about the future of women in government.
Specifically, the future of women in the government of President-elect Ronald Reagan. "My personal feeling is that maybe we will win by default," offered Margaret Adams, a senior editor of Good Housekeeping magazine and a Republican. "There will have to be a sense of fair play from the administration, because of public response to his candidacy. Reagan is too intelligent to ignore that. If there aren't any appointments of women, there will be a revolution. It will be an intellectual disappointment, far more disastrous than a political one. I know I will be angry."
Standing within earshot at the headquarters of the National Woman's Party were several women who had already voiced their displeasure at the dominance of men in the new administration. "Reagan has said he was concerned about women's issues. He has said he is not interested in the numbers games but the quality game. So the implication is that women are not qualified," said Carol Grossman, the president of the Women's Equity Action League.
Her group was part of the Coalition for Women's Appointments that held a press conference yesterday questioning the administration's direction. They have no quarrel with the appointment of Elizabeth Dole as White House public liaison. "Reagan should know that we are satisfied with that," said Nancy Felipe Russo, the president of the Federation of Organizations for Professional Women. "But, at this point, that's tokenism." At the suggestion of the ERA task force, the federation is doing a study on the roles of women in the inauguration parade.
Two of the women who have advised presidents on women's issues, Sarah Weddington and Barbara Franklin, were honored by the Woman's Party last night. "This is in the spirit of Alice Paul's fight to get women into policy-making positions," said the party's president, Elizabeth Chittick. Franklin, who originated the women's liaison office in the Nixon administration, was optimistic that the Reagan record on women wold be acceptable. "He is concerned," said Franklin, who is working on the transition team. But for her to return to government from several profitable and enjoyable positions on corporate boards and the faculty of the Wharton School, Franklin explained, "it would take something spectacular."
The appointee on her way out, Weddington, was giving early poor reviews to the incoming Republicans. "I'm frankly pessimistic. Women's groups have told me they have a hard time getting appointments to see people," said Weddington, who is going on the lecture and corporate board circuit. "But I think the women in the administration and the women's constituency will do the best they can."
Cheering them both on was Mary Crisp, the former cochair of the Republican National Committee, who ws ousted by the Reagan forces last summer. The fences have not been mended, she said, but she was willing to be hopeful. "I think Reagan should use the Advisory Commission on Women as a good instrument for what he claims is sympathy for women's rights," said Crisp. "I think the area of women's rights are economic issues, and Ronald Reagan knows the economy is the number one priority."