History makers

Which is worthier of note?

That the United States has just officially observed National Women's History Week for the first time?

Or that a majority of the population is still like a disadvantaged minority needing a special occasion to recognize its members' achievements?

It all recalls the challenge of celebrating the ''first woman'' to break through each old barrier - while hanging onto sex-blind admiration for one more accomplishment by the human race. If America has come a long way from ''pretty good for a girl'' it has a long way to go toward what might be called equality of appreciation.

How many years before women will be sufficiently restored to their place in US history so that no designated week will be necessary? This will depend on how women fare in the history being made day by day right now.

And this in turn will depend not only on women like Sandra Day O'Connor, who rose to the nation's highest bench. It will depend on women like Sharron Hannon, who ''gained a sense of history -- women's history'' by working with others for something they ''deeply believe in.''

Sharron Hannon's goal happened to be passage of the Equal Rights Amendment by the Georgia legislature. Her goal was lost, indicating how much controversy remains over ERA.

But, as she wrote in our ''Speaking out'' column, she came to see that defeat was not an end. Even better, she saw that passage of ERA would not have been the end either.

For ERA may or may not pass in the last few months left for ratification. President Reagan may or may not pursue and obtain the state and federal equal-rights laws he prefers to amending the Constitution. But the history of women as well as men will still be shaped by what Americans together do in keeping with their nation's deepest principles and their own individual consciences.

''We lost, but we also gained,'' Sharron Hannon wrote. ''And winning is not only in the attainment of the goal but in the struggle itself. Failure is impossible because we will use what we have learned and we will go on.''

This kind of outlook reaches back through history to women of achievement, whether in the unsung role of running stable, loving, and efficient households or in such realms as business, religion, government, education, social reform, and the arts.

Last week's remembrance of such women, locally as well as nationally, will be most effective if it jogs Americans to look around them throughout the year in gratitude for women's works.

Not because they are done by women but because they would be worth attention whoever did them. The trouble is that such things -- when done by women -- have often been overlooked, even as women still are often not granted the concrete recognition of equal pay for equal work.

Fresh interpretations of human history as a whole are emerging as historians try to give equal time to women. The traditional outline may have been too heavily weighted toward listing wars and other conflicts; the importance of peaceful pursuits and survival through cooperation may loom larger as the reinterpretation goes on. Certainly tomorrow's histories of today will have to recognize the persistent role many women have taken in the peace efforts that are growing along with all the headlined strife.

National Women's History Week? Yes, but only as a step toward the equality that will someday make it out of date.

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