Winning women

It was one of America's winningest days for women. Monday's galaxy of women receiving Pulitzer prizes came on the heels, so to speak, of a dramatic new world's record for women in the Boston Marathon.

To note the facts is not to overlook that the honors went to individuals. In some far-off day beyond stereotypes and discrimination, it would be no news that they are women, too.

Indeed, there is meaning for everyone in the change of attitude to which Joan Benoit attributed her success in the marathon. Usually she tried to ''run the other people into the ground.'' This time all she wanted was to ''run the best race I could.'' No one can do more, or should do less, whatever one's walk - or run - in life.

Yet a winner who is a woman may bring something different to an achievement from a winner who is a man. Can this be said of the first woman to win the Pulitzer prize for music, Ellen Taaffe Zwilich?

We do not know just how the jury defined the winning composition, ''Three Movements for Orchestra.'' But, writing about her small, extraordinary body of work last year, the Monitor's David Owens made a departure from avoiding ''male-female distinctions in art.'' He argued her music has the ''very womanly, tender, nurturing qualities music seems to need so badly just now.'' And just when the need for tender, nurturing qualities is being echoed by both men and women far from the field of music, whether in the shared care of children or the struggle for peace.

Continuing a virtual women's sweep of the Pulitzer ''creative'' literary categories, the drama award went to Marsha Norman's '' 'Night, Mother'' and the fiction award to Alice Walker's ''The Color Purple.'' (Galway Kinnell's ''Selected Poems'' was the poetry winner.) These two unsparing works are not only by but about women - in the play, a woman giving up on life and making a case as to why; in the novel, a woman not giving up against the harshest odds. Despite controversy over substance, the works represent writers who accepted difficult challenges of craftsmanship and strikingly met them.

'Morning, Mom.

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