First Lady Tours Russian Factory

Hillary Rodham Clinton, making her first public appearance since her husband admitted an inappropriate relationship with a White House intern, took tea with Russian businesswomen Tuesday and gave a brief, firm response when asked how she's been.

"I've been getting along fine," the first lady said to journalists, emphasizing "fine" with a nod of her head.

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Mrs. Clinton appeared jet lagged but otherwise happy to be hobnobbing about Moscow with Naina Yeltsin, wife of Russian leader Boris Yeltsin.

The two toured a private women's clothing factory and took part in a discussion with women small-business owners before setting off for a tour of the Tretyakov Gallery, one of Moscow's premier art museums.

Mrs. Clinton walked slowly through the brightly lit factory floor, admiring designs hanging on dress models and watching the blue-aproned women stitch and iron.

"It's a very nice work environment," she said.

The visit was designed to highlight the work of women business owners, who in addition to the regular trials facing entrepreneurs, also must battle the sexism pervasive in Russian society.

"It's a pity that so many of our business owners are men," Mrs. Yeltsin said, noting that only 18 percent of Russian businesses are owned by women. "Men love to be in charge. I think that's bad."

The owner, Tatyana Nedzvetskaya, said it was a tremendous honor and surprise that Mrs. Clinton chose to visit her factory. And she was frank about the effect Russia's current crisis could have on her business—increased prices for fabric, maybe even some layoffs.

"We'll hold out until the last minute, of course," she said, but expressed optimism that the hardship may not come to that. "We have to smile and put up with it."

Nedzvetskaya said she was struck by Mrs. Clinton's openness and intelligence, and said it never occurred to her to bring up the controversy surrounding President Clinton's relationship with Monica Lewinsky.

"What goes on behind the bedroom doors is nobody else's business," she said. "If you start asking that kind of question, you have fascism, not democracy."

Written by Maura Reynolds