Eleanor Smeal remembered the night of the long lines in 1975 when delegates to the National Organization for Women convention in Philadelphia stood in queues for eight to 10 hours to vote.
"People got sick and fainted on the floor," the outgoing NOW president said. "The count went on for three days. This was supposed to fix all that."
Not quite. Tallying Saturday's complex preference-style vote for five NOW offices lasted until 9 o'clock yesterday morning, the only major hitch in a gathering otherwise a model of organization, pageantry and passionate, if occasionally angry, spirit.
The ballot required each voter to number each candidate in order of preference. In the count, if no candidate polled an immediate majority, the second choices of the people who voted for the lowest vote-getter were checked and those votes distributed. NOW votes were so split that it took three redistributions, all checked and rechecked by 19 observers, before a winner emerged in four of the five races.
The election committee began the count with the treasurer's race, although reporters were eager to get the presidential results into Sunday's papers.
"There aren't any problems. It just takes a long time," one of the counting party explained to frustrated journalists around 2 a.m. local time yesterday.
The rock band had stopped playing at 1 a.m., the hotel shut its bars and haggard delegates drank the coffee machines dry waiting for results. NOW may not have voting down to a science yet, but members are proud of that. "It's a relentlessly democratic organization, unfortunately," said one officer, laughing.
Who said feminists have no sense of humor? In her farewell speech, Smeal said solemnly that it was not only the major forms of sexual discrimination that NOW must fight, but also the subtle ones.
"I am sick to death of hosiery that runs when I look at it," she said. The audience roared in agreement. "Maybe NOW should adopt its own clothing line," she continued.
Later, the Connecticut chapter brought the house down with a spoof of NOW's nemesis -- Phyllis Schlafly and her Stop ERA campaign -- in the unsuccessful battle to gain state ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment.
Dressed in matronly hats and white gloves, "Mrs. John Phyllis Shaft" and her friends "Ladies Against Women" endorsed the creation of a House Committee on Unladylike Action to be welcomed with a nationwide "iron-in."
"Two things led to your movement: birth control and permanent press clothing," she shrilled at the howling audience. "Pregnant and ironing is our natural state."
The group also called for the passage of a "Seminal Life Amendment." The "amendment," a warping of the ERA, would say that "the right of sperm and egg to unite shall not be abridged by the United States or any state . . . ."