Edith P. L. Gilbert, 73, a retired official with the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Housing and Home Finance Administration, died Saturday at her home in Washington.

Her last position had been that of special assistant to the Secretary of HUD from 1965 until retiring in 1973.

Mrs. Gilbert had been a government information specialist with the Federal Housing Administration and HHFA from 1938 to 1951 and again from 1962 to 1965.

In 1960-61, she was acting Deputy Administrator of the HHFA, the first woman to hold that post.

Born in Glen Carlyn, Va., Mrs. Gilbert was a graduate of the University of Wisconsin. She was a newspaper reporter for the Burlington (Wis.) Standard in 1924-26. She then became a fashion writer for Jelleff's women's apparel store in Washington for two years.

She was a free-lance writer until joining FHA. During her years in the government housing field, she wrote numerous articles on mortgages and finance that appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and Fortune magazine.

She had been a board member, treasurer and parliamentarian of the Washington Press Club, formerly the Women's National Press Club, and vice president of the American Newspaper Women's Club.

Mrs. Gilbert was a member of the Society of Mayflower Descendants and the National Society of Magna Carta Dames. She was a founder of the City Tavern Club, a former officer of the Georgetown Citizens Association and was active in Christ Episcopal Church in Georgetown.

She is survived by her husband, retired Navy Reserve Capt. Jack Hite Gilbert, of the home; two sisters, Dorothea P. Nutt, of Pasadena, Calif., and Mrs. Lewis T. DuMond, of Cobleskill, N.Y., and a brother, Herbert Brindley Porter, of Broomes Island, Md.

The family suggests that expressions of sympathy be in the form of contributions to the building repair fund of Christ Church.