Washington's new girl network gathered last night for what was billed as a chance to "share a potentially important business and political contact."
But when Maureen Reagan spoke to the Washington chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners, the contact consisted mostly of her pumping hands and delivering a rousing speech that made the president's oldest daughter seem as if she were campaigning for the Senate.
Reagan, 40, says she hasn't decided yet whether she will run for office in California next year. She is now the chief executive officer of Sell Overseas America, an association that promotes American exports, and in that capacity she travels the country speaking about American entrepreneurship.
"There are mountains to be climbed, businesses to build and a life ahead for all our citizens," Reagan told the group of 450 people last night. "We [women in business] aren't floundering, we're doing just fine. . . We see the future and know that future is ours."
Reagan said that even though women work hard and are successful in business, "we're never quite taken seriously. Everybody thinks Prince Charming's going to ride up and take us away from it all, but what they don't know is that Prince Charming wants a job from us."
She complained to the gathering that she speaks about entrepreneurship and "somebody still says how does your daddy feel about what you're doing? Why doesn't somebody ask how I feel about what he's doing?"
But when given the opportunity to respond to that question, she tersely answered that he was doing "all right." She wouldn't discuss her much-publicized differences with her father over the Equal Rights Amendment (which she supports and he doesn't) or the fact that he hasn't appointed many women to government positions.
"I have no role in the administration -- I work in the private sector," she said.
Her audience was more open on the subject. Members of the local chapter of the group said they were trying to persuade the Reagan administration not to cut all of the programs that help women in business, according to Alexandra Armstrong, chapter president. The group has also been submitting names of capable women to the administration with the hope that more women will be given jobs.
The organization, founded in 1974 by a handful of women in business to encourage "networking" and provide assistance to women, has now grown to include 235 members. Last night's dinner was its first annual fund-raiser.