Twelve women have been elected to represent the District at the National Women's Conference next Nov. 18-21 in Houston, where delegates will draw up recommendations for President Carter on means to end discrimination against women.
The local delegation will be headed by Ann B. Turpeau, chairwoman of the D.C. Commission on the Status of Women. The other delegates are Mary Spottswood Pou, Mary Jo Binder, Helen H. Helfer, Barbara Lett Simmons, Charlotte Ann Bunch, Paquita Vito, Etta M. Horn, Alexa Freeman, Theresa Clark, Juanita Morgan and Ruth Anita Sykes.
The delegates were selected at a recent conference of 1,100 women who also adopted a detailed plan of action on women's issues. Specifically, the conference called on the District government to insure that 50 per cent of the positions on all city appointive boards and commissions are held by women by 1980. In addition, it called for 50 per cent female representation on the elected City Council and the school board.
"We have set a goal. How that is to be achieved will require some various means," said Turpeau, chairwoman of the District International Women's year coordinating committee. The recommendation is apparently designed to have a ripple effect, as women are appointed to city jobs such as department directorships which in turn carry statutory memberships on appointive boards.
The recommendation for 50 per cent female political representation was part of a lengthy plan of action approved during the three-day conference. The conference, one of 56 state and territorial assemblies, was funded by the federal government as part of the preparation for the National Women's Conference.
While Turpeau emphasized the recommendation on 50 per cent representation and another involving the effect of welfare reform on women, several participants found the strong stands taken by the conference on abortion and lesbianism noteworthy.
Pou, a coordinator of the D.C. Feminist Alliance and a delegate to the Houston conference, said the organizers of the Distirct conference tried to keep out "extremist groups" such as Right to Lifers and radical feminists. She said, however, that while Right to Life supporters stayed away, radical feminists made their voice heard.
Nancy Polikoff, a lawyer and member of the D.C. Feminist Alliance's political task force, said the conferees debated abortion and lesbianism recommendations at length and adopted much more specific and stronger proposals than had been recommended in a draft plan of action.
On abortion, the conference scuttled a draft article calling for a "range of safe choices as to reproductive freedom," and instead endorsed abortion on request regardless of the ability to pay.
The women adopted several pro-lesbian proposals including one for repeal of all laws prohibiting consensual sexual acts among adults, and another that would prohibit consideration of sexual preferences in judicial determinations of child custody and visitation privileges.
As one of the conference's main innovations, Turpeau cited a recommendation calling for a study of the impact of welfare reform upon women. The subject was not touched on in a recent major study by the National Commission on the Observance of International Women's year.
The apparent problem the District women see is that a welfare reform law would force many mothers to work in the market place and leave their children in someone's else care. They would like to see mothers in single-parent households allowed to claim working credit for care of their children at home.
Calling the proposal one involving "the rights of homemakers," Turpeau said, "Women should have the choice of working in the home - that is, to rear their children - or working outside of the home in gainful employment. The work inside the home is valuable and should be recognized."
The conference also endorsed a bill pending in the City Council that would prohibit reimbursements for District employees when they travel to attend a conference or convention in a state that has not ratified the Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution.