She is tiny and pretty and likes to wear pearls, a mother who talks fondly of her toddler daughter and their mornings together. In speeches and articles she is always referred to as the Republican Kathy Wilson, with her position as chair of the 50,000-member National Women's Political Caucus added almost as an aside.
The caucus, started during the heyday of the women's movement to promote feminist candidates in government, still carries a slight radical tinge, and Ms. Wilson's Republicanism is seen there as a badge of courage - or a token. ''Roughly 35 percent of our members are Republican,'' she explains. ''We need members from both parties to generate candidates.
''I think the notion that there is only one pro-women party is shortsighted and politically naive,'' she says. ''It is exactly those women who are deserting the Republican Party who are hurting our chances the most,'' she says, referring to a recent poll that found an 11 percent shift among women from the Republican to the Democratic Party label.
''What we have to learn is that women haven't gotten what we should from either party. After all, all but one of the (Equal Rights Amendment's) unratified states are headed by Democrats - it was a Republican who introduced the ERA and the Republicans who first put ERA on their platform. And in 1978, 63 of the 68 new legislative seats picked up by women across the country were picked up by Republicans.''
Still, she is particularly critical of Ronald Reagan, whose administration she sees as ''alarmingly insensitive to women and their children.'' Yet she plans to remain a Republican like her parents and encourages other women to do so. ''Besides, it's not easy switching parties - it's like switching countries, '' she says. ''Your old friends desert you; your new friends don't trust you. It's better to stay and work from within.'' Encouraging women to run for office