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Sonia Pressman Fuentes

Feminist Icon Accepts Sarasota-FAWL's Honorary Membership

by Evelyn L. Moya, Esq., Editor

This article was published in The Docket (February 2008, Volume 25, Number 2), the Sarasota County Bar Association newspaper.

Sonia Pressman Fuentes, co-founder of NOW (National Organization of Women) and a leader in the second wave of the feminist movement, is the first honorary member of the Sarasota Chapter of the Florida Association for Women Lawyers. Chapter President Brenda Nelms presented the certificate of honorary membership to Fuentes at the Holiday Party held at the elegant home of Jennie and Mark Famiglio on Siesta Key.

Sonia Pressman Fuentes graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Cornell University in 1950 and graduated first in her class (summa cum laude) at the University of Miami School of Law in 1957. She had a 36-year career as an attorney and executive with the federal government and several multinational corporations. She drafted many of the initial landmark guidelines of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) that led to the declaration that sexual discrimination in the workplace is illegal. As an attorney at the EEOC, she took on the cause of female flight attendants who were discriminated against based on age, sex, and marital status. In 1996, Betty Friedan presented her with the Veteran Feminists of America Medal of Honor in recognition of her efforts to improve the status of women.

On page 127 of her memoir, Eat First - You Don't Know What They'll Give You, The Adventures of an Immigrant Family and Their Feminist Daughter, the first honorary member of Sarasota-FAWL writes: "...from the age of ten, I felt there was a purpose to my life...This feeling arose from three factors in my life: I had been born only because my mother's favored abortionist was out of the country, my immediate family and I had escaped the Holocaust, and I was bright. To me that mean that I had been saved to make a contribution to the world..."

By naming Sonia Pressman Fuentes as its first honorary member, Sarasota-FAWL recognizes her powerful influence on women, and in particular, women lawyers everywhere.