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Articles and Stories by Sonia Pressman Fuentes

Sonia Pressman Fuentes

Three Legendary Feminists

Introduction

This article was first published as "Three United States Feminists--A Personal Tribute," Jewish Affairs 53.1 (Johannesburg, South Africa, 1998): 37.

Click on the feminists' names to read more about them.

Alice PaulAs a founder of the National Organization for Women (NOW) and the first woman attorney in the General Counsel's Office at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), I knew and worked with many feminists, all of whom were extraordinary people. But three stand out in my pantheon of heroes -- Alice Paul, the Reverend Dr. Pauli Murray, and Catherine East.

 

Pauli MurrayLike any three women, they differed in many ways. Alice Paul operated on both the national and international fronts and she did so through organizations that she founded. She is the most well-known of the three through her founding of the National Woman's Party (NWP), her role in securing suffrage, and her drafting of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) to the US Constitution. Pauli Murray's ancestors were a microcosm of this country, and she herself wore an astonishing number of hats, both inside and outside the federal government. Catherine East's accomplishments were made largely through her pivotal positions in the federal government. Of the three, only Catherine had children; Pauli had a brief early marriage, and Alice never married.

Catherine East Catherine East But these women had significant characteristics in common. All three lived in the years from 1885-1996 -- significant years for women's rights -- all were well-educated, and all lived to be 75 or older. Each had a single-minded devotion to women's rights and devoted a lifetime to that cause. Each operated in her own sphere, but their lives intersected with each other and with mine. All three were heavily involved in behind-the-scenes activities to secure the inclusion of the amendment prohibiting sex discrimination in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Act that, as amended, prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, and disability by employers, unions, and employment agencies. I was deeply involved in articulating and implementing that Act, and that's how I came to know them.
 

Copyright 1998 by Sonia Pressman Fuentes