The Nation: What Next for US. Women

Houston produces new alliances and a drive for grass-roots power

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These women will get high-level help from the wives and daughters of powerful politicians. The feminist crusade has lately recruited many of them, and they were at Houston in large numbers. Cynthia Baker, Daughter of Senate Minority Leader Howard Baker, was a delegate at large; Cecilia Apodaca, wife of the Governor, was a delegate from New Mexico; the West Vir ginia delegation included Sharon Rockefeller, the Governor's wife. At Houston, Helen Milliken, wife of Michigan's Governor, declared herself "a newly proclaimed feminist—I used to think it was a bad notion."

Most significant, the Houston conference was a crash course in practical politics that will make many of the participants more effective in local causes. Says New York Delegate Patricia Bailey: "We learned the ropes of the political process, how it works, how it happens. I saw that the people who were getting things done weren't the loudest. The women who were more effective were very quietly coming round to people to get their support." Now, adds Bailey, an ardent, pro-plan feminist, "we are coming back to the grass-roots level, and we are going to say to our elected officials that unless you listen to our demands, we are going to get you out of office."

Whatever their divisions and disputes on the big political issues, there are certain things that women of left, right and center ardently support. Even those who do not consider themselves feminists are unwilling to accept unequal treatment under the law and more and more will fight all discrimination against them. The banker who refuses mortgages to women or the businessman who consistently rejects women who apply for management jobs stands to incur not only women's wrath but also a lawsuit.

Reports TIME Atlanta Bureau Chief Rudolph Rauch: "Even the ultra-conservatives have got much out of Houston. They too are on the march as never before. The issues that divide the two groups are important, but the thing that binds them is their commitment to militant action. Houston taught all women that the world can be compelled to watch."

Certainly, Washington and the whole nation are watching the leaders of this increasingly vocal majority. As was echoed many times in Houston, it is a particularly exciting time to be a woman.

* Washington is now spending roughly $1.5 billion a year on child care, but according to the October issue of Public Interest, the cost could jump to almost $25 billion annually if all the wishes of child-care activists are granted.

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