The problem with both Karl Marx and Adam Smith, says Eleanor Smeal, was that neither included women in his economic system.

"They never even saw the wage gap as an issue," she said, and both assumed that females merely consume or maintain what males produce.

Smeal, 40, is the soft-spoken housewife whose steely determination has brought the National Organization for Women to unquestioned leadership of the feminist movement. If she had been around with Marx and Smith, they might have written differently. Since 53 percent of American women are in the work force, "we need a new economic system," she said.

Ellie Smeal is organized: her administrative machine rolled over all challengers at the NOW convention. She is self-confident: "If you get in a room with me long enough, I'm going to change your life," she said.

And she is tough: she dumped two of her first-term officers and demanded that their supporters accept it. They did, with threats and grumbles.

Smeal was a full-time housewife for 14 years of her 16-year-old marriage to metallurgist Charles Smeal, raising two children and becoming a feminist from reading suffragist literature during a year of illness. In two years she has quintupled NOW's budget, to $3.5 million, and all but doubled its membership, and she says it is just the beginning.

Smeal cannot discuss any social issue without relating it to women, nor is she interested in trying. "Cause-oriented people always think that women's rights can wait," she said. "Well, I'm not going to wait another minute."