Presidential contender Edward M. Kennedy returned to Washington yesterday for a brief stop between campaign trips and used the occasion to set forth a six-point "domestic agenda" to guide "the next Democratic administration."

Speaking to a generally friiendly assemblage of professional and politically active women, Kennedy listed these "imperatives" of domestic policy: dealing with economic problems, developing a "fair and effective" energy policy, resisting efforts to cut government help for the poor and elderly, eliminating waste in government, reducing "senseless government regulation" over commerce, and "releasing the native energies of the American people."

kennedy told the women, as he has told audiences around the nation, that President Carter should be replaced because he has not provided leadership in these areas or in the field of women's rights.

And the Massachusetts senator, speaking just an hour before Carter declared his candidacy for a second term, took another poke at the president's declaration last summer that the American people are suffering from "malaise."

"A government that sees only malaise among our citizens," Kennedy said, "has missed the stirrings of spirit and endeavor across the country....The only thing that paralyzes us today is the myth that we cannot move. Those who propagate that myth ignore America."

About 350 women were invited to the lucheon, including heads of 120 women's organizations and a selection of lawyers, businesswomen, Capitol Hill staffers and politicians.

Among those present were three members of the D.C. City Council, Hilda Mason, Nadine Winter and Betty Ann Kane. Kane was a leader of the "draft Kennedy" movement in the District last summer. Two assistants to Mayor Marion Bary, Anita Bonds and Betty King, attended. So did Sharon Dixon, the District's Democratic national committewoman, whose spouse, D.C. Council Chairman Arrington Dixon, has endorsed Carter for reelection.

Judging from the number of "Kennedy -- '80" buttons and from random interviews, most of the women present seemed to prefer Kennedy over Carter. Those interviewed thought Kennedy might be more actiive than Carter on issues such as te Equal Rights Amendment and enforcement of anti-discrimination laws.

Kennedy hit that point hard in his speech. He said Carter hasn't wielded "the levers of power and influence available to a president" to win passage of the Equal Rights Amendment. "If the administration is so ready to use federal funds to punish Chicago after the major . . . endorses a presidential candidate, then why is the president so reluctant to invoke the legitimate authority of his office to secure ratification of the ERA?" This was a reference to threats from a Cabinet member that Chicago might have lost federal grants after Mayor Jane Byrne endorsed Kennedy.

As usual, Kennedy became most aroused when discussing national health insurance -- for years one of his pet projects -- and the proposed tax on oil "windfall" profits. again blasting Carter for unilaterally ordering decontrol of oil prices, he said the president should have insisted that the tax be approved by Congress before giving oil firms such a boon.