WASHINGTON -- Gloria Steinem is unmistakable. Across the room surrounded by a clutch of admirers, she is utterly ageless -- sleek and svelte in black form-fitting pants and top, a gold braided belt with sparkly fleurettes draped along her slender hips. At 78, she looks, well, fabulous.
"I suppose it's not very feminist of us to comment on how great she looks," says the woman next to me, apparently feeling compelled to inject the appropriate corrective.
But at a certain age, isn't a woman happy to accept a compliment? And haven't we come a long way, baby?
Judging by the current debate in some Republican circles, one has occasion to pause and wonder.
The purpose of the Thursday evening gathering in a private home was to celebrate "Makers: The Women Who Make America," a multiplatform video production from PBS, AOL and Makers.com, which launched in February 2012.
The documentary chronicles the history of the women's movement and features women who have, indeed, made things happen so that subsequent generations could do what women were not allowed to do not so long ago -- to become doctors, lawyers, legislators, secretaries of state and, perhaps, even president.
Among those assembled were seven of the Makers who appear in the film, including, in addition to Steinem, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, actress Marlo "That Girl" Thomas, Rebecca Adamson (founder of First Peoples Worldwide), Karen Nussbaum (executive director of Working America and founder of 9to5), Malika Saada Saar (executive director, Human Rights Project for Girls) and Muriel Siebert (the first woman to earn a seat on the New York Stock Exchange and namesake of the investment firm Siebert & Co.).
That's quite a lot of feminine -- and feminist -- power in one room. Quoting John F. Kennedy, Steinem said there hasn't been so much talent in one place since Thomas Jefferson was alone in a room. "Except now," she cracked, "we know Sally Hemings was probably doing the writing."
The centerpiece of the evening was a preview of excerpts from the documentary, which is scheduled for release in February 2013, the 50th anniversary of Betty Friedan's "The Feminine Mystique."
In one interview, Ginsburg recalls being one of nine women in a class of 500 men at Harvard Law School. Ginsburg remembered being herded into a room with the other women where a professor asked why they were taking up seats that could be filled with men. She later transferred to Columbia University, where she finished first in her class.