The NAACP, shaken by a sexual-harassment controversy that led to the firing of Executive Director Benjamin F. Chavis Jr., welcomed two dozen women to its Baltimore headquarters yesterday and said it would review its policies for gender bias.
The name of Mary E. Stansel, a former aide to Dr. Chavis, wasn't mentioned.
But Ms. Stansel's charges of sexual harassment against the former NAACP leader -- and his secret deal to pay her up to $332,400 of NAACP funds to fend off a lawsuit -- formed the backdrop for the gathering, which was attended by elected officials and civic activists.
Edythe Hall, the life membership director of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, urged the women to join the civil rights group and be the "beginnings of a serious female brain trust."
"We need you to be our sisters in the struggle and our mothers in the movement," she said.
Earl T. Shinhoster, the NAACP's interim senior administrator, said the organization needed to "get back to basics -- who we are as a people and what we are as an institution."
He said he would be guided by three principles -- inclusion, participation and accountability.
Del. Salima S. Marriott, a Baltimore Democrat, told the women to support the NAACP, but to force the organization to put "family issues" high on its agenda.
Afterward, Fred H. Rasheed, Mr. Shinhoster's top aide, said the NAACP would scrutinize its policies for gender bias and correct them, if necessary.
"I can't clean your house if mine is dirty," he said.
The NAACP's national membership is nearly two-thirds women, but the organization's 64-member board of directors is three-fourths men.
Some critics say the NAACP could best rebuild its credibility by naming a woman to replace Dr. Chavis, who was fired Aug. 20 after 17 months on the job.