Jane Carey Enger, 56, personal secretary for 16 years to the late Sen. Paul H. Douglas (D-Ill.), died of cancer Thursday at George Washington University Hospital.

She left Capitol Hill in 1967, shortly after Sen. Douglas was defeated in his race for reelection. She then worked for two years as executive officer of the National Commission on Urban Problems, which was chaired by the former senator.

In his autobiography, "In the Fullness of Time," published in the early 1970s, Sen. Douglas, often a controversial figure because of his liberal views, wrote that Mrs. Enger had filled her position as his personal secretary "with peerless grace and efficiency."

"Unfailingly serene," he wrote, "she turned out huge amounts of work smoothly, and in the process made everyone happy. Without Jane, I would have estranged many more persons than I did."

Sen. Douglas died here in 1976.

Mrs. Enger was born in Morris, Ill. She was a graduate of Mundelein College in Chicago, where she majored in business. She joined Sen. Douglas' staff in Washington in 1951, two years after he began serving in the Senate.

In 1957, she married Stanley Enger, who was also a Capitol Hill aide at that time and who later joined the Library of Congress staff. They lived in the Chevy Chase area of Washington for many years until moving to Arlington last December.

In addition to her husband, she is survived by three children, Mary Ann, Cynthia Kari and Scott Douglas, all of Arlington; her mother, Loretta Carey of Morris; two sisters, Virginia DeSimone of Arlington, and Nancy Logsdon of Libertyville, Ill., and two brothers, John Carey of South Bend, Ind., and Thomas Carey of Forks, Wash.