DES MOINES, JAN. 23 -- The women's movement plunked itself down in the temporary center of the political universe here today to make a point about how "mainstream" its agenda has become. To the outrage of 1,100 conventioneers, not one Republican presidential candidate showed up to listen.

"I am outraged," Molly Yard, president of the National Organization for Women, said of the GOP absentees.

"This is a slap in the face to every woman in America," added her predecessor, Eleanor Smeal.

"I'm heartsick," said Pat Reuss, a Republican who is a member of the Women's Equity Action League, one of 42 national organizations that cosponsored the conference. "If we wore jeans and had green hair sticking up, I could understand it. But we've grown up."

The Women's Agenda Conference was put on by an unusually comprehensive collaboration of women's groups spanning the political spectrum, from the activists of NOW to the more mainstream, upscale (and Republican) Business and Professional Women and the American Association of University Women.

Its message to the presidential field was that in a nation of 49 million working women, the primary focus of women's groups is becoming economic even as they continue to push for reproductive rights and constitutional protections.

"Since 1986 we have learned what others are just starting to understand," Beth Wray, president of Business and Professional Women, said in opening the conference. "At the ballot box, a woman's purse has become as important an issue as a man's wallet."

The focus was reflected in the kinds of questions that panelists put to the five Democratic presidential candidates who did attend -- on pay equity, child care, pension rights, welfare overhaul, health-care funding, military spending, arms control and foreign policy. In nearly three hours, there was only one question about the Equal Rights Amendment and one about abortion.

The women gave the five -- Rep. Richard A. Gephardt (Mo.), Sen. Paul Simon (Ill.), former Arizona governor Bruce Babbitt, Massachusetts Gov. Michael S. Dukakis and Jesse L. Jackson -- a respectful if not stirring reception.

The only thing that seemed to move the audience was the no-shows. "George Bush is dedicating a battleship today {in Texas}, but in reality he is missing the boat," Wray said. The women cheered. "Where's Bob Dole? Ice-fishing {at a fund-raiser} in Wyoming. I say to Bob Dole -- fish or cut bait." The audience roared. "And for Gary Hart -- now he's got even more explaining to do."

A spokeswoman for Sen. Dole (R-Kan.), Katie Boyle, said he "can't be every place at every time" and is concentrating Iowa appearances on likely caucus-goers. Richard Bond, a spokesman for Bush, said, "We didn't ignore it. We had two people representing the vice president there." Other campaigns cited schedule conflicts -- although conference organizers said they began trying to line up commitments last July. More likely, said GOP consultant Anne Stone, "they probably think that because this is a women's group, they'd be going into the lion's den."

Not without reason. According to various national polls, women voted more Democratic than men by 9 percentage points in 1980, by 6 percentage points in 1984 and by similar margins in many key Senate races in 1986. A study prepared for the conference by pollster Celinda Lake noted that 6 million more women than men voted in 1986, and the gap is expected to grow to 10 million this year.

Given the trends, the Democrats were on friendly ground. Babbitt told the women that his first priority as president would be to push for a "day care voucher" for every working parent. Afterward, NOW's Yard said he seemed the most "genuine."

Dukakis told the group that 57 percent of all professional positions in Massachusetts government are filled by women, that his is the first presidential campaign to be managed by a woman, and that as president he would appoint women to top positions -- "not just in people programs, but in national security and foreign policy-making." He also drew the loudest applause of the day by promising the cut off aid to the Nicaraguan contras immediately.

Gephardt committed himself to pay equity and expanded child and health care, but Simon reminded the women that Gephardt had voted against extending the deadline for ERA ratification and funding for victims of domestic violence. It was the only attack of the day.

Jackson said, "The other candidates are offering you a lot of goodies . . . . If you are empowered, you can get your own goodies."