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  • Interviews of, and Articles about, Sonia

Interviews of, and Articles about, Sonia Pressman Fuentes

Articles about Sonia are also contained in the section on Belgium.

Sonia Pressman Fuentes

Excerpt from Love, Sex, Freedom and the Paradox of the Pill, A Brief History of Birth Control

On April 22, 2010, TIME magazine published a short e-book called, "Love, Sex, Freedom and the Paradox of the Pill, A Brief History of Birth Control," by Nancy Gibbs, executive editor of TIME Magazine. Ms. Fuentes is referred to in the following excerpt:

 Employers, meanwhile, also lost a primary excuse for closing their ranks to women. Lawyer Sonia Pressman Fuentes remembers a time in the early 1960s when she was looking for a job as a lawyer. "I was single, I wasn't even dating anybody, and an employer said to me, 'How do we know you won't get pregnant?' I was flummoxed -- and I didn't even have an answer for him." She became the first woman lawyer at the office of the General Counsel at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), established in 1965 by the Civil Rights Act to fight workplace discrimination. Fuentes was drafted to help write guidelines for how employers should handle an employee's pregnancy. "People feared that if we required employers to have special maternity leaves and benefits for women, employers would not want to hire women," she recalls. Though the EEOC was intended to handle mainly race discrimination, in its first year of operation, 37% of complaints were for sex discrimination. "Nobody was prepared for that," she says.

One day, author Betty Friedan, doing research for her next book, walked into the office of the EEOC's General Counsel. She asked Fuentes what kind of problems and conflicts they were seeing; Fuentes told her that all was well. "I worried if I told her the truth, I'd lose my job," she says. But two weeks later, they spoke again in private. "I said to her what this country needs is an organization to fight for women the way the NAACP fights for Negroes." Fuentes ended up among the founding members of NOW and helped fight for the laws that made it illegal to discriminate against women on account of pregnancy.