The grande dame of the Democratic Party, India Edwards, makes her debut as an author today at a luncheon in her honor at the Women's National Democratic Club. The occasion, coincidentally, is also her 82d birthday.

A former vice chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Edwards went to Harry Truman back in 1957 to ask if he objected to her writing her memoirs. "Tell the truth and pull no punches," he told her.

WHen she finally started writing, it took three years to put the truth on paper, something now entitled "Pulling No Punches, Memoirs of a Woman in Politics." But she's been slugging it out on behalf of women in top government positions for years. She blames the lag in passage of the Equal Rights Amendment squarely on today's aggressive."

"Today women are going about it in all the wrong ways. They should not make men feel they are rivals. The women are defeating themselves. They approach men as if they were of them. They're too aggressive. You win more in this world with honey and sweet words than with anything else."

She challenges those women's activities who say they will not enter any state which has not passed ERA.

"Those are the very states in which they should go" she says. "Women should try to make men feel that women want to be their partners, not their rivals.

"The truth is not being told about ERA . . . Everyone needs to know the truth, and the truth should be spread in the states that have yet to pass ERA."

Edwards has nothing but praise for what President Carter has done for women although she does not know him.

She is critical of Gloria Steinam, leading feminist, for sending President Carter a list of 500 names of capable women for his administration.

"That's not the way to do it," says Edwards, who suggested the name of women appointees to Truman, one by one.

Steinnem has complained that the list never reached Carter, but was sidetracked by men of his staff who were "jealous" of women.

"No President has time to be confronted with a long list of names," says Edwards. "I took up one name at a time, suggesting for what post the woman would be qualified."

She proposed Perle Mesta and Eugenie Anderson for their diplomatic posts, Burnita Shelton Matthews as the first woman judge on the U.S. District Court, and Georgia Neese Clark as the first woman treasurer of the United States. She also advised on women appointees for President Kennedy and Johnson.

Edwards was offered the chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee in 1948, and the party wanted to nominate her for vice president in 1952, but she turned down both offers. She felt that the time was not right for such advancement for women, she says.

Edwards, who has 26 years as a newspaperwoman behind her, first as a reporter, then society editor and finally as women's editor of The Chicago Tribune, first gained politicial fame in 1948 at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.

A Republican Congress had removed price controls. She dramatized inflation by carrying in a shopping bag of food - a loaf of bread, a quart of milk, a bag of flour and a juicy steak.

She held up the drpping steak before the TV lights in what in her book. She says was the first dramatized speech on television. The convention delegates went wild when she quoted its price Then and Now.

This was before convention air-conditioning and the steak got hotter and hotter in the lights.

"Hold it up higher, India," cried the photographers and the blood dripped down her her bare arm.

In the three years it took her to write the book she was interruptes by two heart attacks. Also, her husband, Hebert Edwards, had two operations.

She follows a rugged regime, swimming daily and answering her voluminous mail.

She is already looking ahead to her next book. It's going to be an open letter to her five granddaughters, all grown. She praises the young, in their teens and early 20s today. "They are so much franker than we were."

In her book, she is frankness itself.She blames former Sen. Eugene McCarthy for the defeat of Sen. Hubert H. Humphrey by Richard Nixon for president in 1968.

She also hopes that the day comes when she will be able to vote for a woman for president.

She predicts that the next President might be a woman and a black - Rep. Barbara Jordan (D) of Texas.

"I would gladly work for her," she says.