The chairman of the National Women's Political Caucus said today that President Reagan "has helped promote our cause" by changing his policies to attract female voters in the 1984 elections.
Kathy Wilson, a Republican who has been an outspoken Reagan critic as head of the 77,000-member caucus, said the president, worried that women would cost him a second term, moderated many of his "most extreme positions and softened his anti-woman image" last year.
She said Reagan appointed women to "high-visibility posts," signed a number of women's rights bills he had previously opposed and "dramatically blunted his aggressive rhetoric toward the Soviet Union" in an effort to attract women voters.
Wilson's remarks appeared to surprise many of the 2,000 women attending the NWPC convention here and were greeted with scattered boos and hisses.
At the organization's last convention two years ago, Wilson called Reagan a "dangerous man" and urged him not to seek a second term.
Last year the NWPC, traditionally a bipartisan group, endorsed Democratic presidential nominee Walter F. Mondale and his running mate, Geraldine A. Ferraro.
Wilson, stepping down after heading the caucus for four years, said such pressure "moved the White House to red-alert status" and Reagan's actions could be viewed as "deception or as progress."
"I don't believe that the Reagan administration's heart is in the right place," she added. "But I do believe that we changed some minds over there."
Wilson praised the Republican Party for its efforts "to court women voters" and urged it to place a woman "at the top of your ticket in 1988."
But, she warned, "a prolonged strategy of style over substance will not succeed forever. Women cast a respectable majority of their congressional votes for Democrats in 1984. This should be its own red flag."
The NWPC meeting, Wilson said, comes at a "precarious juncture in the history of the women's political movement." Reagan's landslide victory over Mondale and Ferraro left many women discouraged and "needing their batteries recharged," she said in an interview.
Some women political activists say NWPC and the National Organization for Women have lost their militancy. Marianne Anthe of Akron, Ohio, for example, told Gloria Steinem, an NWPC founder, today that "there is a feeling that we have become too accommodating and we are spending too much time lobbying in blue suits and not enough time marching in the streets."
Steinem, editor of Ms. magazine, replied: "I don't think it's a question of being inside the system or outside the system, in the streets or in blue suits. Sometimes we need people outside in the streets to make those inside in blue suits look reasonable."
Meanwhile, some Republican women complain that the NWPC almost became an arm of the Democratic Party after the GOP's 1980 national convention in Detroit and 1984 convention in Dallas voted against supporting legalized abortion and adoption of the Equal Rights Amendent.