The group of 150 women looked right in place as they gathered for a Cobb salad luncheon at the Balboa Bay Club. All were well dressed, and there was a sprinkling of summer hats; conversation was animated.
What might have been less expected at that beachside facility dedicated to the good yachting life was the reason for the gathering in the first place: These were women who count themselves among the county's feminists and activists, and they were gathering last Thursday for the fifth annual Suffrage Day Luncheon sponsored by Women's Network Alert. It's a day for networking, sharing and helping make things happen in Orange County, said Vivian Hall, one of the founders.
If these women didn't appear to be stereotypical "feminists" or "activists," then maybe those stereotypes need to be updated, suggested Bonnie P. Castrey of Huntington Beach, a labor/management arbitrator and chair of the county's Commission on the Status of Women.
Old Stereotypes Changing
Deborah A. Hagman-Shannon, contracts administrator for the Technical Exchange Center, Garden Grove, said she sees that change already happening: "The fact that a majority of women work outside the home--so we're apt to see women more in professional dress--is changing some old stereotypes a little bit."
Yet, there is work to be done, according to Castrey.
Talking informally before the luncheon, Castrey said that one goal is to improve the status of women who choose to stay at home as family care providers. These women should get paychecks from their spouses, she said. "Beyond that, when they reach the age of retirement, Social Security should recognize the work these women have contributed all of their working lives and they should be compensated adequately in their retirement years.
"We're on the cutting edge of making changes," she said. "When we begin to value women's work in the home and in the workplace, we will have made it."
Some others at the luncheon were eager to promote specific projects. Among those was Paula Werner of Irvine, chair of the local Women For, a political action and education group formed 19 months ago and a member of the new Women's Coalition of Orange County. She wanted to let this group of successful women know that the coalition already is a viable, energetic organization, and that it has put together a seminar on "The Political Woman," to be held Sept. 28 at Santa Ana College.
Interested in Networking
Others were more interested in networking. They included Margaret Craig of Laguna Hills, a longtime member of the League of Women Voters. With so many talented women now taking full-time jobs, groups like hers are losing members, said Craig. Now, if they want to get things done, "we have to work with other groups."
Sherry Baum, a member of the Huntington Beach Union High School District Board of Trustees, was there "to support the organization" . . . and to promote her candidacy for the Coast Community College District board. Susanne Wiegand, principal of Irvine's Deerfield Elementary School, was present "because I am interested, politically and personally, in being involved with groups of women who have made names for themselves or accomplished things for themselves in their professional and personal lives."
A few men were there, including U.S. Sen. Alan Cranston (D-Calif.), who dropped in briefly just as the women were finding places at the luncheon tables. Cranston toured the room, shaking hands, but did not stay for the Cobb salad.
Also present was last year's Suffrage Day honoree: Jean Aldrich, wife of former UC Irvine Chancellor Dan Aldrich, who was honored in 1984 especially for her efforts to develop housing for homeless women.
This year's honoree was Narda Zacchino, editor of the Los Angeles Times' Orange County Edition, who concluded the day's program with a talk touching on a number of women's concerns, from child care to priority-setting.
The concept of the superwoman "who has to be tops in her career, family and whole life" is not all good, Zacchino suggested. Women who have tried to do it all now are facing the challenge "to set some priorities," she said.
Yet, Zacchino proposed, efforts for change must continue: to stop the feminization of poverty, to support affirmative action, to build child-care systems.
"We can never turn back," she said, "nor do we want to."