Interviewee: Kathy Parker
Interviewer: Adade Wheeler
Date: November 19, 1977
Kathy Parker was a long-time activist in the women’s movement and moved to Phoenix from Australia shortly before the IWY conference. Parker, an American, opened a women’s center in the Outback town of Alice Springs. Parker attended the conference as an observer. Parker received her degree in communications at Antioch College West. Interview includes discussion of: Parker’s experiences in Australia running the women’s center; Parker’s involvement with the Women for Change Center in Dallas, TX; Parker’s young children; and Parker’s opinion that the conference is much more organized than she initially anticipated.
Adade Wheeler: Let me ask you for your name and your address on the tape, please.
Kathy Parker: My name is Kathy Parker, and my address is Phoenix, Arizona, 4803 North 21st Avenue.
AW: And could you tell me something as to what got you started in being interested in coming to this conference? How did you happen to be here in Houston?
KP: Well, I’ve been active in the women’s movement everywhere I’ve ever been. I just recently moved to Phoenix a year ago from Australia where I opened a women’s center, so when I heard the conference was happening, I was very much interested in coming. Missed the Arizona conference this summer, I was out of town, missed that totally, so I had to come as an observer and wanted to get my way paid, found that I could get it paid if I was willing to meet an ex husband here to deliver a child. So I delivered my three-year old to him and said if you will come the weekend of the women’s conference and pay my way I’ll deliver the child to you. So it worked out beautifully.
AW: And you pick the child up when the committee’s over and take the child home again?
KP: No, he’s going to keep it for a month. We laugh a lot about that. The fact that I’m here is a direct result of divorce or whatever.
AW: Can you remember what got you started in the women’s movement? You say you’ve always been in the women’s movement.
KP: I can remember exactly. I went for training when I was moving from Australia to Dallas and was very worried, because I’d always been in school or working or doing something and the three-month period I was there was not long enough to become terrifically involved. And I was very much wanting some feminist friends, found the Women For Change Center in Dallas, and became involved with some dynamic ladies and just fell in love with the movement, and women in particular. Just really enjoyed it, so that’s exactly where it started I guess, in Dallas.
AW: Were you in school then?
KP: No, I was training to go to Australia.
AW: Oh, you were out of school. What was your field?
KP: My degree is in communication.
AW: Where did you take your degree?
KP: Antioch College West, which is San Francisco.
AW: Do you work with groups, then? You started out getting interested because you were in Dallas and heading for Australia. Did that get you interested in working with women as groups?
AW: Not just individually.
AW: What women’s groups have you worked with?
KP: Well, I think I mentioned. I’m not sure if it was on tape or not, but while I was in Australia I opened a women’s center in the Outback. It was in Alice Springs.
AW: How did you happen to be going to Australia?
KP: Just something I’d always wanted to do, and at that point I was married and my husband as well wanted to go, so we just chose to go together, took the kids and left. We lived there for two years, and opened the women’s center, became very much aware of the need for that kind of shelter. We had a shelter for battered wives as well, which is the term there, so that’s how I became involved with the groups there. Moved to Phoenix after that experience, and now it’s all voluntary as far as I’m a member of NOW and Women’s Affairs Board, and Women in Communication, Feminists United for Action. Those are the four, and those are basically just interest in meeting other women. I also work as community relations director for Family Planning Institute, so I’m very much involved in the health aspect as well.
AW: You said you have your own business.
KP: Right. We just opened that six weeks ago. It’s called Bridges, and it is a communication consulting firm. Just kicking off, feeling excited about that.
AW: And you work on the other, too, the other job, the PR?
KP: Yes. At this point in time I have to do both in order to make sure that I make it one way or the other, because I self supportive with three children, so it would be very nice if I could find out at the meeting I’m going to at 2:00 on small businesses how to get the money to kick off my other business full time so I don’t have to do both.
AW: Kicking off a small business takes time.
KP: Yes, it does.
AW: What do you hope will grow out of this meeting that you’re here for? What do you see as a result of a meeting like this?
KP: Well, I’m definitely pro-Plan, and I would hope that we can get that kicked all the way through and work on the side issues later. I’m also very definitely pro-ERA and I think it’s time that the law stated it, that’s all. To me it’s just a very simple thing, and there are lots of complex things we can deal with later but right now I would like to see that as a reality.
AW: Is this meeting living up to your expectations so far?
KP: No, but that’s a positive no. The reason is because I started contacting the center about a week and a half, two weeks ago, so see if I could get some information and it sounded terrifically disorganized. And I was very concerned. My expectations were that it would be a disorganized mess, and it is not. I’m very pleased with what I see happening and I feel good about the whole thing. So my expectations are not being me, but it’s positive.
AW: It shows what they can do in just a few weeks, doesn’t it?
KP: Well, I think it probably had to be a lot longer than a few weeks.
AW: It hasn’t really been as long as they needed for something like this. They could use more time. What kind of things sustained your interest in the women’s movement? What progress do you see being made, or what kind of results do you see coming in the women’s movement that keep you going, that sustain your interest?
KP: I guess because basically I enjoy other women, and that’s going to stay my interest above anything else. I think what’s going to happen is being open to the issues as they evolve. For instance, we thought we had licked it as far as the abortion rights. In Phoenix they have now restricted all funding for abortions for women. The clinic I work in is a privately owned clinic, therefore we don’t have any government support at all and we’re turning away woman after woman after woman, and it’s upsetting and it’s depressing, and that has helped me to become re-involved in that issue again. I’ve still been involved in the entire movement, and I think that’s going to be reality for us. I think as we take two steps forward we will be taking one step backwards and better be prepared to move on.
AW: So that kind of thing keeps you really going.
KP: It sure does.
AW: Is there anything in particular that you’d like to discuss on the tape for the future, for the historians who will be listening to this in the future?
KP: Not at all. I’m just pleased to be a part of the whole thing. And this morning, sitting in the session, I got chills just being there and feeling the power.
AW: When the Girl Scouts came down the aisle and the torch came down the aisle.
KP: That’s right. I feel very proud to be an American and hoping that we can get this going. Of course, coming from Arizona since we are one state with –
AW: A ratified, yes.
KP: We know we have a lot of work ahead of us.
AW: Fine, thank you very much.
End of Interview