CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Democrats opened their three-day national convention Tuesday with a warning to women that Republicans want to send them back to "the kitchen."

A lineup of female luminaries, addressing hundreds of mostly female delegates, argued for President Obama's re-election is all that stands in the way of Republican efforts to reduce women's rights.

"We have the most to gain by re-electing Barack Obama and the most to lose if he does not win," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said just hours before First Lady Michelle Obama was to take the convention stage to tout her husband's accomplishments in hopes of attracting crucial female voters.

Women make up 55 percent of the electorate and Obama's ability to attract their support, particularly among Independents, is considered critical to his re-election effort.

Tuesday's event featured Democratic stars like Obama senior advisor Valerie Jarrett, film star Ashley Judd and lesser-known activists like EMILY'S List President Stephanie Schriock. All delivered a similar message - that the liberty of women is at stake in this election because far-right Republican candidates, particularly GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, want to strip them of their access to abortion and free contraception.

Pelosi, a former House speaker, mocked last week's Republican National Convention, saying she was unimpressed with the slew of Republican speakers professing love for their wives, mothers and sisters.

"I'm more interested in how they will respect the judgement of women in America," Pelosi said in a reference to Republican opposition to abortion except in cases of rape or when the mother's life is in danger.

Pelosi also reminded the crowd of the Republican opposition earlier this year to a new law requiring employers to provide free contraceptives in their employee health care plans.

"These people are not even pro-birth control," Pelosi said. "That is a radical position."

Republican interference in women's lives would be a cradle to grave endeavor, Schriock added. The GOP, she said, would strip away rights women have fought decades to secure, including legislation signed by Obama aimed at ensuring equal pay for women.

"They want to send us so far back we're going to be in the kitchen," she said.

Michelle Obama and Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, will address the women's caucus Thursday.