There's no doubt about it: The Democratic women here are different from the Republican women who gathered in Detroit.
In Detroit, the feminists were on the outside -- forced into the streets to protest the GOP's dropping of support for the Equal Rights Amendment after endorsing it for 40 years. Yellow-and-black "Stop ERA" buttons were all over the place.
Here the cutting edge of the feminist movement is on the convention floor. Half the delegates are women -- compared to 29 percent at the Republican convention last month. And green-and-white ERA badges are more common than Jimmy Carter buttons.
Yet there is a sense of frustration and division among the women. And two of the most bitterly debated issues on the party platform today involved women's issues -- ERA and abortion funding.
"The women's issues are just gutting our delegation," complained a leader of the Texas delegation.
The most-heated debate was over something called Minority Report Number 10. It demanded that the party withdraw all financial support from candidates who refused to endorse ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment -- an idea that raised the hackles of scores of Democratic party chieftains.
Sarah Weddington, President Carter's senior adviser on women's issues and a strong advocate of the ERA, met with feminist leaders until 4 a.m. trying to negotiate a way to avoid a floor fight on Report Number 10 and Number 11, a strongly worded pro-abortion plank.
But, she said, "They were unwilling to accept anything but their own language."
Noting that state legislatures in 13 of the 15 states which haven't approved the ERA are controlled by Democrats, feminists argued that drastic action was needed to secure amendment approval before its ratification deadline, 22 months away.
Opponents -- including Carter forces and Virginia national committee-woman Sandy Duckworth of Fairfax County -- argued the move would "ensure the election of Republicans who have already turned their backs on ERA."
Report Number 10 withdrawing financial support passed after the National Educational Association, which has 330 delegates, threw its support behind it. This set off a loud floor demonstration. The pro-abortion minority report also passed.
The decision by Carter forces to allow some minority reports to pass without roll-call votes was seen as an effort to minimize conflict with women -- a vital link in the Democratic coalition.
But the move raised eyebrows among some party members. "Did you see that? It's the rottenest thing I've ever seen," complained Hunter B. Andrews, majority leader of the Virginia Senate.
"Is this going to help Jimmy Carter? . . . All this crap [about minority planks] is going to cause Carter trouble," he added.
"Under the circumstances some of us may have opposed the minority plank, but here we are at the Democratic convention and it would look like we were voting against ERA," said Nancy Arnsen, a Carter delegate from Alexandria, who had earlier complained feminists were "more interested in publicity than their cause."
The issues illustrate an important point about the status of women at this convention: They have the numbers and can use their clout. But they are most effective in doing it when it includes a threat to embarrass the powers that be.
Feminists, in effect, held a gun at Carter's head. Eleanor Smeal, president of the National Organization for Women, threatened that her group might throw support to independent presidential hopeful John B. Anderson if the ERA plank failed. Betty Friedan, the feminist author and organizer, declared before the vote, "in order for us to swallow our bile and go for Carter, we have to have some response. Males here are still treating us with contempt."
There was considerable division and uneasiness among many of the women. They differ in some ways from their male counterparts. According to a survey by The Washington Post, they have smaller incomes, are more liberal and are far less likely to hold public or party office than male delegates.
"We have 50 percent of the numbers but we don't have 50 percent of the power," said New York City Council President Carol Bellamy. "There's a big gap between numbers and clout."
Some women were surprised at how easily some other women gave in to pressure. They attributed this to political naivete. "Women are more easily swayed than men," said Paula Magram, a Florida delegate. "You sit a governor by a woman and after a half an hour she'll give into almost anything. I've seen it happen time and time again here."
At a press conference after their victory on the Equal Rights Amendment and abortion-funding planks, leaders of the Democratic Women's Task Force hailed what former representative Bella Abzug called "a historic victory, an enormous victory. The White House . . . has always failed to understand [women's issues], but they may understand them a bit better today."
"This renews my faith in the democratic process and the Democratic Party," said Friedan. "It may very possibly make the difference in the election" between President Carter and Ronald Reagan.
Comparing the Democratic and Republican platform planks on women's issues, activist Gloria Steinem said the fall campaign might turn into "a referendum on women's rights."
"Today we told the Democrats that life is, indeed, unfair," said former White House aide Midge Costanza, echoing President Carter's remark about the prevalence of unfairness made in 1977 after the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of a congressional ban on the federal-funding of abortions.
Costanza said the Democrats' equal-division rule, which allots 50 percent of the delegate seats to women, defeated "the Democratic power bosses who dared to give us equal presence but not equal power . . . We used that presence and turned it into power."
Some of the women's rights activists, however, were suspicious of the Carter administration's commitment to implement the plank on Medicaid funded abortions. "We'll work vigorously to have that plank enforced," said Smeal. "We'll push . . . We're fighters -- I think you've noticed that."
"President Carter has an obligation to honor the platform -- the contract he had made" with the party, said Maxine Waters, a Democratic assemblywoman from California. "If he disavows that, then he disavows the majority of Americans, and the majority of the Democratic Party."