What kind of role model are you looking for, Amy Schwartz {op-ed, Sept. 30}? A cartoon superwoman? Or someone who can deal with an unpleasant reality and get on with her life?

Pat Schroeder took a good look around, figured out she couldn't get enough delegates to win the nomination and decided not to waste her time and her supporter's money on a purely symbolic candidacy. Geraldine Ferraro, Elizabeth Dole and Schroeder may have ruined Schwartz's "romantic idealization" of women in public life, but maybe that's due to her expectations and not to their actions.

-- Andrea L. Nelson

Amy Schwartz applies a super-bionic-woman standard, which says women cannot be human, cannot cry and are not allowed to exhibit any trait that might be "femininely" tainted. She overlooks the fact that the whole person is a blend of both male and female elements and that it takes a strong person to openly and honestly show her thoughts and emotions in the manner Schroeder did. What we need is not necessarily more women who are politicians, but more people like Pat Schroeder who are genuine people, who dare to be humans complete with a gender, who ignore the dictates of society's stereotypes and strive to be true to themselves.

-- Lucy Hawley

Perhaps Amy Schwartz and I have read different books by Geraldine Ferraro. The tone of Ferraro's 1985 book, "Ferraro, My Story," was quite upbeat. In describing the Mondale-Ferraro campaign, Ferraro insists, "There were many personal satisfactions along the way." Did she have regrets? Ferraro said: "No . . . the barrier had to be broken." And, she concluded, "My candidacy had been worth it. Absolutely."

To me, such women are role models for today's young women. If the willingness to break sex-role barriers, display human warmth and freely choose what is best for oneself are the only ammunition of those who hold the view that women are inferior to men, then we women have little to fear.

Mary Ann Largen

So Geraldine Ferraro didn't know the details of her husband's business dealings? Nor do I -- or most mature working women with families -- track each and every movement my husband makes each day. I'm too busy (working, getting the baby fed and the dog walked, getting to the office on time, taking night classes and trying to get some exercise) to spend a lot of time or energy double-checking on the propriety of my husband's activities. I'm happy when he and I manage to find an hour in our busy days just to say hello.

Jane Ashley

Amy Schwartz's article epitomizes the dangerous narrow-mindedness of many feminists; they are so obsessed with setting standards for what women should be that many women end up feeling miserable about what they are.

Jack E. Pope

Yes, we are all a little embarrassed because Pat Schroeder cried on national television. Yes, we all cringe a bit when we see the happy face on her signature. But I'm not sure whose problem that is -- hers or ours?

Women will never be successful national political candidates until they are able to run as themselves and not as symbols. I look forward to the day when someone like Schroeder can run a national campaign without having to look and act like Bob Forehead, when women candidates can be judged on their merits and not on their hairstyles. Surely if the past few years have taught us anything, it is that "central casting" does not always produce good leaders.

Schwartz's article also demonstrates that there is a double standard involved here, and women are often guiltier of applying it than men. People joke about hairlines and bow ties, but no one thinks those are major disabilities. They are spoken of with humor and tolerance, not ridicule. Pat Schroeder's sartorial eccentricities pale in comparison to those of some of her male colleagues in Congress, including some with national aspirations, but we don't see articles suggesting that someone put a match to all that polyester.

-- Catherine LeRoy