Nora Bailey shuffled a thin deck of those green U.S. Treasury checks a bit nervously yesterday morning -- checks that look like the ones many get as federal paychecks, and others of us get only at tax-refund time.

These particular checks were special. Like one for $112,484 made out to Dorothy M. Thompson, one for about $137,000 made out to Barbara Carter, one for $95,993 made out to Bertha Gaither.

These recipients, handed their checks by attorney Bailey in a law office a block from the White House, were among 37 women awarded $100,000 each, more or less, on a finding in 1980 by U.S. District Judge Charles R. Richey that their employer, the Government Printing Office, had systematically failed to pay them as much as men doing identical jobs.

Another 296 women will get lesser amounts.

In all, the settlement, which took eight years to resolve, was one of the largest ever made in a bias case, in this instance under the congressional Equal Pay Act. The case was brought by the Washington Lawyers Committee for Equal Rights Under Law and by private attorneys Bailey and David Dorsen.

The presentation was something of a media event, with the women appearing before TV cameras and radio microphones.

Gaither, who said she plans to invest the proceeds in Treasury notes and pay the first year's income to the Scripture Church of Christ at Baileys Crossroads, Va., obligingly sang before the TV cameras these words of a hymn she said "came to me" during a serious illness while awaiting the outcome of the case:

I'm only human, I'm just a woman, Lord help me . . . Show me the stairway that I have to climb . . . Lord, for my sake, help me to take one day at a time.