- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 8, 2000

Two top officials have resigned from the Independent Women's Forum (IWF), a women's organization credited with giving feminism a conservative face.

Barbara Ledeen, 52, a co-founder of the IWF, and policy analyst Amy Holmes, 27, have left the organization due to a "difference of vision," said Mrs. Ledeen, whose last day of work is today.

Although IWF's District of Columbia office at 18th and N streets NW will be closed, the rest of its operations, including its 7,000-circulation magazine, the Women's Quarterly, will remained based in IWF's Arlington, Va., offices.

"I was personally surprised," IWF President Anita Blair said of Mrs. Ledeen's exit. Miss Holmes' departure in July, she added, was a much lesser shock. After the policy analyst was named one of People magazine's "50 Most Beautiful People in the World" this spring, co-workers figured she would soon move on.

The 1994 Princeton graduate has made a career as a conservative black female policy wonk, appearing on Fox News Channel, PBS' "To the Contrary" and ABC's "Politically Incorrect," and writing a column for USA Today.

And yesterday, IWF's new publicist, Jana Novak, daughter of Catholic theologian Michael Novak, submitted her resignation.

According to an open letter sent by Mrs. Ledeen to the IWF board, there was a "non-consensus" among some staff as to its future.

"Despite the fact that we have had a complement of terrific and talented women, IWF can no longer continue in this mode," she wrote. "I do not believe it is possible to project our principles or achieve what I believed our goals to be under these circumstances."

The IWF, she said yesterday, was becoming more "process-directed." Instead of having power spread throughout the organization, its leadership was becoming more institutionalized in a way she found impossible to work with.

"You cannot imagine how terrible I feel," said Mrs. Ledeen, who has been IWF's policy director. The IWF has been a brain trust and sounding board for conservative and centrist women ever since the dawn of the Clinton administration, when it morphed from another group, the Women's Washington Issues Network.

"Several of us came together who saw a hole in the marketplace of ideas," Mrs. Ledeen said. "I felt [the left] had always fielded a team to fight their ideological battles using their women as a kind of advance force.

"Our side had on its field women whose central political battle was abortion. We felt that abortion should be not a political issue and that those people who were fighting for it, one side or the other, were doing a very fine job articulating their point of view, but the other issues weren't being explored.

"[The IWF] was a non-Christian based and non-abortion-based women's group. You needed one for a woman like me," said Mrs. Ledeen, who is Jewish.

The IWF dove into economics, gun policies, military issues and issues concerning stay-at-home moms, with expertise culled from everyone from economist Wendy Gramm, lawyers Mrs. Blair and Barbara Olson, former Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Vice Chairman Ricky Silberman, authors Danielle Crittenden and Christina Hoff Sommers to psychiatrist Sally Satel. Lynne Cheney, wife of Republican vice-presidential running mate Richard B. Cheney, was an early board member.

"We wanted to challenge the existing radical feminist orthodoxy, to expose its hypocrisies, and to establish the facts about the roles, the importance, the success of women in America," Mrs. Ledeen said. "We succeeded, often beyond our wildest expectations."

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