Interviewee: Judy Stietly
Interviewer: Adade Wheeler
Date: November 19, 1977
Judy Stietly was originally from Pennsylvania but was living in Maryland at the time of the IWY conference. Stietly was stationed in Hawaii for five years and was still enlisted in 1977. She attended the conference as an observer after the Women’s Political Caucus in San Jose inspired her to become involved in IWY. Stietly is a physical therapist by training. Interview includes discussion of: Stietly’s experiences in the Army; Stietly’s hope that the Plan of Action would not be “bogged down” by amendments; and changes in the Army which allowed more opportunities to women interested in medicine or physical therapy.
Adade Wheeler: Let me start out by asking you what your name and where you come from.
Judy Stietly: My name is Judy Stietly. I’m originally from Pennsylvania and am presently in Maryland.
AW: How does your heart happen to be in Hawaii?
JS: I was stationed in Hawaii for five and a half years and really loved the good weather and all the rainbows.
AW: How do you happen to be here? Are you representing an organization?
JS: No, I went to the Women’s Political Caucus convention in San Jose, and got inspired to come here. From all the media reports, I expected it to be a big fight and didn’t know if it was worth coming to.
AW: Are your expectations being changed?
JS: From the media, the paper in the past week, I still kind of expected there to be more confrontation than I’ve seen. So far it seems to be running smoothly, but the Equal Rights Amendment discussion hasn’t come up yet, so we’ll find out then.
AW: Yes, that will show what happens. What do you hope will come out of it? What are your hopes for the result of the conference?
JS: I hope that the plenary sessions get through the whole plan of action; that it’s not bogged down with a lot of fine tuning or amendments.
AW: And then what do you hope will happen after that?
JS: We’ll need to continue to press for the implementation of the plan.
AW: Do you think it’s going to get more people doing it? Do you think it’s going to encourage more people to get active, or is there going to be a backlash afterward? How do you see the results coming along afterwards?
JS: Well, right now there is a lot of right wing activity, and I don’t know if it’s right wing conservative activity with the abortion issue, and hopefully with the women attending this conference there will be enough show of strength that we can continue to fight for equality.
AW: When you first started, how did you happen to get interested in the women’s movement? Can you think of any special event or anything that happened that triggered your interest?
JS: When the women’s movement first started in ’66, when NOW was first organized, I had just graduated from the physical therapy school, and shortly thereafter I went to Okinawa and in the beginning of the movement there wasn’t anything in Okinawa, and when I came back to the States in 1969 I was stationed in a small town, Columbus, Georgia, which the movement hadn’t gotten to yet really. And I used to go to Atlanta on weekends, but that was I think at least a two-hour drive so it wasn’t really convenient. And I first really got involved through some women I met in Hawaii, and I was right in the center of Honolulu, so it was –
AW: When you graduated physical therapy did you enlist in the Army? How did you happen to get into the service?
JS: I had gone through college and decided I didn’t want to be a teacher, and I was a physical education major and I didn’t want to teach physical education and physical therapy was a good field to go into without having to start all over again. And it was an economic think. The Army has its own physical therapy school and you come in as a commissioned officer and they send you to school. And at that time I went to school for a year and I only had a one-year obligation to remain in, so it was a good chance for further education.
AW: After you finished the one year you stayed longer?
JS: Oh yes, I’ve stayed longer.
AW: Still there?
JS: Still there.
AW: Where are you now?
JS: Washington D.C.
AW: Is there any special person or any special thing that helped motivate you to get interested in the situation of women? What about women in the Army, do you find that women in the Army get equal treatment?
JS: Well, I think they’re still limited to a certain percentage by act of Congress, and they’re still –
AW: Do they give you the same training exactly as they give the men in your field?
JS: In my field, I don’t think it was until 1955 that women were commissioned as regular officers in my corps. Physical therapy started as reconstruction aids, I think, in WWII and it wasn’t commissioned before, sometime in the middle of the war. It was initially called the Women’s Medical Specialist Corps.
AW: So the women were gaining ground.
JS: It was all women initially.
AW: Then the men came in.
AW: That’s a change, men getting equal treatment under those conditions.
JS: Just several years ago the school that I went to, when I went to it only admitted women, and I think probably in maybe ’72 or ‘3, I’m not sure about the dates they opened the course to men.
AW: Nice they’re not discriminating against the men. Did you really like the Army situation?
JS: When I first came in I didn’t have any problems with it, but depending on the personality and disposition of the chief that you’re working for.
AW: That would make a big difference. You’re single, or are you married?
AW: So you’re on your own and you’re free to come and go anyplace you like.
JS: Well, within the confines of the Army.
AW: That makes a difference, though, your approach to it. Do you find other single women that feel the same way you do about being able to join the Army and go into kinds of training and expectations that the Army has for women?
JS: I’m not sure I know what you mean.
AW: Is the Army life a big attraction for single women?
JS: Well, up until several years ago married women, if they had children, couldn’t remain in the service. And if the woman got pregnant she was out. But now, several years ago they changed that.
AW: Are there many married women?
JS: There are more than there used to be, because of the change in the rules.
AW: Can you think of anything else you’d like to add as to the state of the world as far as women are concerned, or the state of this convention, for the record.
JS: Just one thing as far as women in the military, I guess a lot of women that –
End of Interview