- Interviews of, and Articles about, Sonia
Interviews of, Articles about, and Books that Include Sonia
Articles about Sonia are also contained in the section on Belgium.
- On December 27, 2022, the Lakewood Ranch (adjacent to Sarasota, FL) Jewish Club mailed its latest newsletter to members, containing the following statements about Sonia.
Sonia Pressman Fuentes, Resident
I am a resident of Kobernick House at Aviva. Today when I went to have lunch in our dining room, members of your club were there to assist and serve us. All your members were most gracious and helpful, and I wanted to express my appreciation. I am the author of a memoir written with humor. If any of your members would like a copy of the ebook edition, I'd be happy to email it to them. I can be reached at email@example.com. (My website is at www.erraticimpact.com/fuentes).
Sonia Fuentes was born in Berlin in 1928. She and her family fled to America in 1933 to escape the Holocaust. Her memoir reveals how a 5-year-old immigrant grew up to be a trailblazer: the first woman attorney in the Office of the General Counsel at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in 1965, one of the founders of the National Organization for Women (NOW) in 1966, the highest-paid woman at the headquarters of two multinational corporations: GTE and TRW, and an international speaker on women's rights for the US Information Agency. Today, at 94, she has agreed to make available to us her memoir, Eat First -- You Don't Know What They'll Give You: The Adventures of an Immigrant Family and Their Feminist Daughter.
- On Aug. 29, 2029, the subject of the Yiddish Book Center’s newsletter was “Returning to Our Roots.” The newsletter featured seven interviews from its Oral History Project on that subject, the second of which involved Sonia. She was thrilled to follow Leonard Nimoy’s interview.
- Annette Bethel, a feminist on Sonia’s worldwide feminist email list, sent her on August 14, 2022, the minutes from the NOW 1967 conference that she came across in doing research.
A reference to Sonia is at the end of the write-up, as follows:
“The meeting then had a talk on job discrimination. Aileen Hernandez, a past employee of the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) introduced Sonia Pressman, a present employee of the EEOC, to talk on the subject of the action a woman can take against job discrimination and what part the EEOC takes in the case. Sonia Pressman briefly outlined what Title 7 covers, explaining that federal law in most cases conflict with state protective laws. Employers can not run segregated job ads in the papers. Insurance benefits must be equal for both men and women. AN employer can not refuse to employ a married women. There are many court cases resulting from Title 7; many more cases than were expected when the word sex was added to the Civil Rights act. Sonia Pressman then reviewed the legal procedures one should take in discrimination cases.”
Copyright © 2022 by Thomas Dublin, Kathryn Kish Sklar, Judy Tzu-Chun Wu, Rebecca Jo Plant and Alexander Street, a ProQuest Company
On April 19, 2022, Penguin Random House published The Great Stewardess Rebellion: How Women Launched a Workplace Revolution at 30,000 Feet by Nell McShane Wulfhart, in which Sonia plays a prominent part.
In 1968, many U.S. airlines terminated or grounded stewardesses (who flew only on domestic flights) when they married or turned 32 or 35. U.S. airlines also had other requirements and restrictions on these women flight cabin attendants that they did not have on male flight cabin attendants who flew on international flights, were called pursers, and did the same jobs as the stewardesses. Many stewardesses and their union filed complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) about these practices.
Sonia drafted the decision wherein the EEOC found that the airlines’ policies on age and marriage for stewardesses violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. That decision was later confirmed by the courts. It was the beginning of the legal revolution in women’s rights in the U.S., which later spread worldwide.
The book received outstanding reviews from the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and many other publications. Nell McShane Wulfhart discussed the book on radio station WHYY, an NPR affiliate, in Philadelphia, on May 3, 2022, at 10 a.m. on Radio Times. You can hear her comments, including a reference to Sonia, here. (When you get to this website, click on “Listen 49:29” at the top.)
Sonia is mentioned in the Publishers Weekly Jan. 27, 2022, pre-publication review of the book as one of a trio of women who spearheaded the fight. (Read the review.)
The Washington Post selected this book as one of the 50 top nonfiction books of 2022. (Read the article.)
- On Aug. 26, 2021, Growing Bolder, an organization for and about seniors, put an article about Sonia on its website.
- On Aug. 14, 2020, SRQ magazine in Sarasota had an article about Sonia by Andrew Fabian entitled "Foot Soldier for Women's Rights Retells Stories From the Front Lines."
- On July 24, 2020, there was an article in Sarasota Magazine by Kay Kipling about Sarasota's celebration of the centennial of suffrage, which mentioned Sonia twice.
- Article in Town and Country magazine of April 19, 2020, about the history of the ERA begins with a quote from Sonia.
- On Apr. 2, 2019, author Pamela S. Nadell's book, America's Jewish Women: A History From Colonial Times to Today, was published. Ms. Nadell interviewed Sonia for the book, and Sonia is included in it. The New York Times' Mar. 29, 2019, review of the book included the following statement: "From Betty Friedan to Sonia Pressman, Bella Abzug and Gerda Lerner, Jewish women had an outsize role in the feminist struggle."
- The November 30, 2018, issue of the Washington Post contained a column by Petula Dvorak about the ERA and Sonia's comments on it.
- In its October 2018 issue, Sarasota's newspaper, West Coast Woman, announced Sonia's Oct. 24, 2018, talk to the Sarasota chapter of AAUW.
- The Washington Post has a newsletter that explores identity and culture in America called About US, which included Sonia on July 13, 2018.
- On Dec. 20, 2017, Sonia was featured on the cover of the Sarasota section of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune with regard to her talk scheduled for Jan. 11, 2018, to the Ladybugs, the Sarasota chapter of the Ninety-Nines, an international organization of women pilots founded in 1929. The local chapter was founded a year ago.
- From Nov. 9 through 11, 2017, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune's website contained the following article about a talk Sonia was due to deliver at the first anniversary of the Sarasota chapter of the Ninety-Nines, an international organization of female aviators that was founded in 1929.
- In the Jewish Women's Archive blog of July 27, 2017, in the entry, "Combatting Sexual Harassment and Assault in Schools," by Sara Lebow, Esther Warkov, co-founder and co-executive director of SSAIS (Stop Sexual Assault in Schools), refers to Sonia as a senior mentor and a "distinguished feminist lawyer."
- On July 1, 2017, SSAIS (Stop Sexual Assault in Schools) issued its Final Report on its action under an AAUW Community Action Grant Awarded to Stop Sexual Assault in Schools 2016-2017. Sonia is one of seven women quoted at the beginning of the report, as follows:
Two of the critical areas in gender discrimination today are sexual harassment and sexual assault. Most of the attention has, however, been focused on college and university campuses. SSAIS is performing a vital service in fighting sexual harassment and assault in an otherwise forgotten area: K-12. “Sexual Harassment: Not in Our School!,” using experts and student activists, sets forth the applicable law in this area and suggests ways in which families, students, school administrators, faculty, and the community can fight this scourge in grades K-12. -Sonia Pressman Fuentes, attorney, co-founder National Organization for Women
- Sonia in Jewish Women's Archive quiz.
- On Mar. 1, 2017, in its blog, the Jewish Women's Archive for Women's History Month recognized Jewish women lawyers and researchers of second wave feminism, of whom Sonia was one.
- Minnah Stein, a 16-year-old student at Sarasota's Pine View School for the gifted, mentions Sonia in her blog post about the Violins of Hope program brought to Sarasota by the Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee. Minnah's picture is at the end of her post.
- On Jan. 26, 2017, Sonia's friend and mentee, Minnah Stein, a 16-year-old student at Sarasota's Pine View School for the gifted, blogged about Sonia's escape from Nazi Germany in 1933.
- Sixteen-year-old feminist activist and fighter against sexual assaults in schools, Minnah Stein, describes participating in the Women's March (attended by 10,000) in Sarasota, FL and dedicates her first picture to Sonia.
- In connection with the 50th anniversary of the founding of NOW, the Fall 2016 issue of Beacon, the bi-annual magazine, in hard cover and online, of the National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia, PA, included a profile of Sonia called "Founding (Jewish) Mother." Click the arrow at the right of the magazine cover until you come to page 4. To enlarge the print, click on the icon of the open square box to the right of the sliders that are at the bottom of page 4. To leave the page, click "Esc" on your keyboard.
- Sonia was profiled in the May/June 2016 issue of Suncoast Living Magazine, a magazine for people on Florida's West Coast.
- Sonia is included among six women highlighted by the National Women's History Project on Mar. 1, 2016.
- On Feb. 29, 2016, the Veteran Feminists of America, published an ebook of biographies and pictures called Our Fabulous Feminists, which includes Sonia. It can be downloaded for free.
- This picture of Sonia appears on page 36 of the Summer 2015 magazine, Jewish Currents, a progressive, secular voice, as part of an article called “The Jewish Left: A Visual History, Part Two: 1946-2015,” written by the editorial board of that magazine.
- On July 24, 2015, Zoe Nicholson, a feminist activist who is specializing in Alice Paul, sent out an enewsletter, which contained the following about Sonia:
"When I began to study Alice Paul to the exclusion of everything else I realized that phone interviews would be pivotal and rare options. Miss Paul was 92 when she died in 1977 and those who knew her, interned for her or worked for her hold priceless memories that need to be harvested.
"I made calls. Some were emotional. Some were poetic and nostalgic. Of course some were all about politics. But then I made a call that set my sails; it was with Sonia Fuentes. I can still hear her impatience and disgust that most do not know the brilliant strategist mind, the lifelong commitment, the legislation and international impact of Miss Alice Paul. I felt challenged and dug deeper than I had previously planned."
- An article about Sonia in the Winter 2015 issue of Gravitas, an online and hard copy magazine that focuses on women in the Sarasota and Tampa, FL areas.
- In March 2015, Sonia's story went on the website of Just Do Your Dream. To access it:
- Go to justdoyourdream.com,
- click on the drop down menu under "Stories" at the top,
- select "Speaking, Coaching, Teaching," and
- scroll down to Sonia's story when you reach that screen.
- See references to Sonia on the blog of Candy Dawson, the wife of Greg Dawson, author of Hiding in the Spotlight (March 1, 2015).
- Sonia is quoted in a Sarasota Herald-Tribune article of Nov. 5, 2014, about the political campaign for Congress of her 101-year-old friend, Joe Newman.
- Announcement of Sonia's interview on radio station WBAI in program commemorating the 50th anniversary of the passage of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which, among other things, prohibits gender discrimination in employment by covered employers, employment agencies, and labor unions.
- The Jewish News of Sarasota-Manatee, Vol. 44, No. 6 (June 2014, p. 10).
- Excerpt from the June 5, 2014, "Jewdayo" section of Jewish Currents.
- Sonia participates in a Holocaust Survivors program at the Al Katz Center for Holocaust Survivors and Jewish Learning in Sarasota, FL. Front-page article, Bradenton Herald-Tribune, April 28, 2014.
- Dec. 2013 Newsletter of the E.B. Crawford Public Library in Monticello, NY, to which Sonia’s publisher, Xlibris Corp., donated a copy of her memoir.
- Danielle (DanYang) Yu Interviews Trailblazing Feminists, November 7, 2013.
- Xlibris, the publisher of Sonia’s memoir, featured her in its Author Spotlight in November 2013, and also published this article in its November newsletter.
- By Catharine Skipp, "A Conversation with the Remarkable Sonia Pressman Fuentes, J.D. '57," Miami Law Magazine, University of Miami School of Law, Fall 2013. (If you need to enlarge the text to read it in your browser, click on it with your mouse.)
- Jewish Women’s Archive, This Week in History, Week of July 1, 2013, recognizes Sonia’s work at the EEOC on the anniversary of the opening of the EEOC.
- June 13, 2013, Report of Leita Kaldi, head of the UN Women’s Book Club, Sarasota, FL, on the discussion of Sonia’s memoir, with Sonia present, on June 10.
- Sarasota's Sonia Pressman Fuentes to Receive Breaking the Glass Ceiling Award, April 17, 2013.
- On March 14, 2013, the Veteran Feminists of America (VFA), an organization dedicated to recognizing the pioneer feminists of the second wave of the women’s movement, announced the revamping of its website at www.vfa.us. Sonia is mentioned throughout the website.
- On February 21, 2013, the Women’s Herstory Initiative, Words of Women, International Women’s Day, based in Dallas, TX, announced that the essay of seventeen-year-old Talia Weisberg about Sonia on the subject “The Most Influential Woman in My Life” won the Words of Women Essay contest.
- The book, Jews of Sarasota-Manatee, by Kim Sheintal (Arcadia Publishing, Feb. 2013), contains a 2002 photo of Sonia in front of a sign about the Jewish Genealogical Society (JGS) of Southwest Florida (p. 25). Sonia gave a talk to JGS on March 2002. The link will open to page 25.
- “Boston Commons,” by Talia Weisberg, was published on January 8, 2013, in Fresh ink for Teens, an online newspaper sponsored by the Jewish Week in New York City.
- "Groundbreakers or Ground Takers?" by Talia Weisberg, was published on December. 8, 2012, in Fresh ink for Teens, an online publication sponsored by the New York Jewish Week.
- By Tyler Whitson, "Women's Rights Pioneers Strive to Influence and Inspire a New Generation," Sarasota News Leader, November 16, 2012. (Visit the Sarasota News Leader Web site.)
- "Women's Rights Pioneer Sonia Fuentes Speaks at Law School," enewsletter of the Cornell University School of Law, Oct. 31, 2012.
- By Deborah Carney, "Sonia Pressman Fuentes Interview About Feminism and Her Memoir," October 8, 2012.
- Interview with Sonia Pressman Fuentes as a Featured Writer on authormepro.com, August 30, 2012.
- By Nick Friedman, "Neighbors: Sonia Pressman Fuentes," July 4, 2012.
- Sonia is mentioned in an article commemorating the 46th anniversary of the June 1966 founding meeting of NOW. (Jewdayo section of Jewish Currents, June 30, 2012)
- Sarasota Observer, June 28, 2012: Sonia presents copies of her memoir to prizewinning young women students at Booker Middle School, Sarasota, FL.
- RTIRonline asks Sonia to comment on the death of Nora Ephron, June 28, 2012.
- Is Laura Bush feminist enough for Alice Paul Award?, Washington Post, June 20, 2012.
- Sewall-Belmont House draws fire for honoring Laura Bush, Washington, DC's The Examiner, June 20, 2012.
- Who Will Speak Out Against an Outrageous Insult to Former First Lady Laura Bush?, The Huffington Post, June 18, 2012. It says at the end of the article "Continue reading" but we don't have access to any additional material.
- Laura Bush's fight for women, Washington Post, June 19, 2012.
- Sonia initiates campaign to protest the National Woman’s Party/Sewall-Belmont House & Museum’s plan to give the Alice Award to Laura Bush, Washington Post, June 18, 2012.
- Cary Franklin, “Inventing the `traditional concept’ of sex discrimination,” Harv. Law Review, Vol. 125, # 6, p. 1307 (2012), Univ. of Texas Law, Public Law Research Paper #219.
- "Eva Alexandra Countess Kendeffy, Sonia Pressman Fuentes and Rabbi Jonathan Katz", Longboat Key Observer of March 11, 2012. This picture also appeared in the Sarasota, FL, Jewish News (April 2012, p. 14B).
- By David Beard and Bethonie Butler, "The keys to a better life? Everyone has an opinion," February 21, 2012.
- Interview of Sonia by Talia bat Pessi, a high school student, that went online on Feb. 9, 2012. (Note from Sonia: I thought my talk about Colleen Boland had been recorded and was available but it was not.)
- Feb. 5, 2012, Interview with Cyrus Webb, editor of Conversations Magazine.
- "Jean Faust, First President of the First Chapter of NOW," December 8, 2011.
- By Abby Weingarten, "Feminist Revisits Her Birth Country," November 9, 2011 (Online version | Photocopy)/Sonia with Dr. Bernd Wollschlaeger.
- Generations of the Shoah International Newsletter, October 2011.
- "NOW Conference: Action, Inspiration and Connection," Now National Times, Fall 2011.
- "Sonia Fuentes, writer, speaker, and feminist activist, tells us about her life," HavaMAG Life, Issue 4, September 2011. (To access the article: Click on the arrow to the right until it takes you to the Table of Contents on the left. Next, click on the first item in the Table of Contents, which is the article about Sonia, on page 10. When you come to the article, double click on each page to make the type readable.)
- "Featured Author," Published by Sonia's publisher, Xlibris Corp., in a newsletter and on its website, July 27, 2011.
- By Slavica Monczka, "Feminist Sonia Pressman Fuentes. Her Passion for Women's Rights," appeared in the e-zine, Inspirational Woman's Magazine, on July 24, 2011, and was written by Slavica Monczka.
- On July 21, 2011, Amanda Gonzalez wrote an article about Sonia for the blog of Ms. JD, an e-zine targeted to women law students and beginning women lawyers.
- By Slavica Monczka, "Something Beautiful is Happening," seductivelyfrench.com, July 5, 2011.
- "Blending motherhood and working: Moms work by choice — and also out of necessity," Deseret News, June 26, 2011.
- "Second Wave Founder" by Sonia Fuentes, girlscantwhat.com, June 9, 2011.
- The CHJ Connection (Vo. XIV, No. 9, May-June 2011).
- Sonia’s March 3, 2011, letter to the editor of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune is discussed in “Religious Rehab at Florida Jail Sparks Protest,” Church & State (Vol. 64, No. 4, Apr. 2011), the magazine of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. The letter is included and can be read in the Letters to the Editor section of this website.
- The CHJ Connection, the newsletter of the Congregation for Humanistic Judaism in Sarasota, FL, December 2010.
- TILES, the newsletter of the Jewish Museum of Florida, December 2010.
- The Quotable Woman, The First 5,000 Years (6th ed., October 2010), an anthology by Elaine Partnow, includes three quotations from Sonia.
- By WomensRadio Staff, October 12, 2010.
- By Cathy B Stucker, sellingbooks.com, September 8, 2010.
- Column called “WorkWise BlogTip: Know when to be direct” by Dr. Mildred L. Culp, which appeared in the Modesto [Calif.] Bee of Sept. 6, 2010.
- Radio-TV Interview Report, "Elena Kagan—Fifty and Fabulous," July 7, 2010.
- By Joan Collins, The Sullivan County Democrat newspaper on June 18, 2010.
- By Joan Collins, The Sullivan County Democrat newspaper on June 11, 2010.
- Author Spotlight, Xlibris, June, 2010.
- By Andrea Kay, USA Today, May 17, 2010.
- By Nancy Gibbs, "Love, Sex, Freedom and the Paradox of the Pill, A Brief History of Birth Control," April 22, 2010.
- By David Ball, Sarasota Herald-Tribune, February 20, 2010.
- By Tamar Burris, published on the Web site, Story of My Life, January 19, 2010.
- By Marita Meegan, akgmag.com interviews, August 2009.
- By Corie Russell, She Knows, July 2009.
- By Meigs Glidewell, Sarasota Herald-Tribune, June 30, 2009.
- By Heather Dunhill, Sarasota Herald-Tribune, June 4, 2009.
- By Veronica I. Arreola, Viva la Feminista, April, 2009.
- By Amanda Joe, The Cornell Daily Sun, April 23, 2009.
- StopGap Magazine, the members’ magazine of the Fawcett Society in the UK, Spring 2009.
- Sonia, who graduated from Monticello High School, in Monticello, NY, was profiled in the October 2008 issue of the newsletter of the Monticello Central School District and is on the district’s website.
- By Bill Hutchinson, "A life of standing up for women," Sarasota Herald-Tribune, June 9, 2008.
- By Kristen J. Tsetsi, Journal Inquirer, March 31, 2008.
- By Evelyn L. Moya, The Docket, February 2008.
- By Linda Jimenez Glassman, "English Corner" Radio Sefarad interview, August 2007.
- By Ruth Lando, Sarasota Herald-Tribune, July 1, 2007.
- By Steven A. Bibb, Passages, Summer 2007.
- By Marsha Fottler, Sarasota Herald-Tribune, May 12, 2007.
- By Erica Brody, National Council of Jewish Women Journal, Winter 2006 (pdf. file).
- Featured Author, Xlibris, November, 2006.
- By Adam Levin, Washington Jewish Week, June 29, 2006.
- By Susan Weidman Schneider, The Reporter (Spring 2006, Vol. 55, No. 2, p. 10), a publication of Women's American ORT.
- The Barrister, the University of Miami (FL) School of Law alumni magazine, Winter 2005.
- By Debra Rubin, "The f-word Online exhibit features local Jewish feminists," October 27, 2005. Sonia is one of six Washington, DC area women included in the exhibit of the Jewish Women’s Archive called Jewish Women and the Feminist Revolution.
- By Jacqueline Sternberg, Washington Jewish Week, April 28, 2005.
- Sonia was one of seventy-four Jewish women included in an exhibit of the Jewish Women's Archive (JWA) called The Feminist Revolution at jwa.org/feminism Her write-up is at jwa.org/feminism/fuentes-sonia-pressman. She is also pictured on JWA's website.
- By Ken Millstone, The Potomac Almanac, October 13-19, 2004.
- Sonia was featured in the August 5, 2004, issue of the University of Miami Alumni E-Newsletter (she is an alumna of the law school) as follows:
Featured Alumna Sonia Pressman Fuentes Leader of the Women's Movement Isn't Slowing Down
For most immigrants fleeing Nazi Germany in the early 1930's, America was a land of freedom and opportunity that usually came with the price of hard times and hard work that left little room for philosophical or social conviction. Not so for Sonia Pressman Fuentes, JD '57, who even today is continuing to work hard in support of her convictions. Fuentes is one of the most lively and active feminist public speakers and authors today, not allowing herself to rest on the laurels of her past accomplishments or slow down in the twilight of her life. From being the first female attorney in the Office of General Counsel at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to being one of the co-founders of the National Organization of Women (NOW), Fuentes continues today to be driven and energetic in her pursuit of women's rights. Recently, Sonia has been traveling the globe and continuing her experiential education in culture, society, and the arts. She has also spoken on behalf of candidates supportive of the women's movement, and will be featured in an upcoming documentary by Jennifer Lee regarding a revival and the second wave of the women's movement. Her memoir, Eat First. You Don't Know What They'll Give You; The Adventures of an Immigrant Family and their Feminist Daughter continues to be a popular and inspirational selection for all people in all walks of life...
- By Jeanette Friedman, Lifestyles Magazine, Fall 2003 (pdf file).
- By Sheri' McConnell, National Association of Women Writers, May 2003.
- By Michael Pollick, Sarasota Herald-Tribune, November 25, 2002.
- By Magdalena Ball, The Compulsive Reader, July 2002.
- By the Editor of WomenWriters.net, June 2002.
- By Phil Fink, radio interview on Shalom America, WELW 1330 AM, Cleveland, Ohio, Feb. 3, 2002 (not available on the www).
- By Norman Simms, Chadashot, August 2001.
- By Bill Adams, The Senior News, July 2001.
- By Jenna Glatzer, WriteRead University, May 14, 2001.
- Publishing Success Magazine, May 2001.
- By Lisa Katz, "The Making of a Jewish American Feminist: Sonia Pressman Fuentes." This is a seven-part piece about Eat First and Ms. Fuentes.
- Part 1: Book Synopsis - "Let it be"
- Part 2: Book Synopsis - A Meaningful Contribution
- Part 3: Book Synopsis - The Focus of Sonia's Life
- Part 4: Book Synopsis - The Fight for Women's Rights
- Part 5: Book Synopsis - Underground Activity
- Part 6: Jewish Q&A
- Part 7: Eat First--You Don't Know What They'll Give You
- By Barbara Ruben, Senior Beacon, October 2000.
- Cornell Chronicle (Vol. 31, No. 31, April 20, 2000).
- By Lynn Laframboise, Word Wrangler Publishing, February 2000.
- Shalom, newspaper for the Reading, PA, Jewish community, February 2000.
- By Linda Eberharter, Bridge Works Publishing, January 2000.
- By Marlena Thompson, Washington Jewish Week, December 16, 1999.
- By Linda Davis Kyle, "Writers Around the World," August 1998.
- By Eva S., "Evenings with Eva," July 21, 1998.
- By Ellen Joan Pollock, Wall Street Journal, May 1998. (This article is a follow-up to a 1975 Wall Street Journal article by Mary Bralove.)
- By Risa Molitz, "Fuentes' lecture leads to talk on uniting women," University of Virginia's The Cavalier Daily, October 22, 1997.
- By Frankee Nesta, West Coast Woman, May 1997.
- Beginning of interview of Sonia on the early history of the EEOC by Sylvia Danovitch, assistant to the EEOC's chairman, on Dec. 27, 1990.
- By Betty Friedan, It Changed My Life: Writings on the Women’s Movement, 1976.
- By Mary Bralove, Wall Street Journal, May 13, 1975.
- Excerpt from Betty Friedan’s article, “Up from the kitchen floor,” NY Times Magazine (March 4, 1973), crediting Sonia with giving her the idea to start an organization to fight for women like the NAACP fought for its constituents.
- Sonia Fuentes makes news : June 24, 1970 : Woman Fights For A Job As Park Guard
- Courier-Times, Bucks County, PA, June 25, 1970.
- By Dorothy Gilcrest, Anniston (AL) Star, October 21, 1969.
- Sonia is mentioned in several of the footnotes of the attached 1969 law review article dealing with marital restrictions on stewardesses, now known as flight cabin attendants.
- By Louise Hutchinson, "U.S. Hearings to Weigh Sex in the Skies," Chicago Tribune Press Service (July 23, 1967).
- "Women's Equality Is Pressed," Hartford (CT) Courant (Dec. 7, 1966, p. 1).
- By Sylvia Porter, Post-Crescent, May 28, 1963.
- B’nai B’rith Women’s World, November 1959.
- By Susie Marbey, The Miami Hurricane, May 10, 1957.
Sonia Pressman Fuentes
The reference to Sonia is near the bottom of this article, highlighted in light blue. Click here to go directly to the reference.
FIRST PRESIDENT OF THE FIRST CHAPTER OF NOW
I was born in Tarboro, North Carolina, March 19, 1930, at the height of the Great Depression.
My father, George Dewey Satterthwaite (named after Admiral Dewey), was a tenant farmer who augmented his income by going around the area with his toolbox doing carpentry jobs.
Our family was saved from poverty by the Roosevelt New Deal, specifically the Resettlement Act which leased abandoned farms on long-term mortgages to families who needed a boost.
Eight of nine children born to my mother, Hattie Lee Bradley Satterthwaite, survived to become prosperous citizens. The little boy just before me died of pneumonia when I was an infant.
My father tried several locations in the resettlement program and then settled into a farm on Blue Sky Road near Halifax, NC. The whole family worked very hard. Children who could not do farm work took care of smaller children and helped around the house, brought water, etc.
On Blue Sky Road, we had a cooperative system of working on crops like tobacco that were very labor intensive. One day we would work at one farm, another day we would go to a neighbor. The whole area was like a big family; all the boys were like brothers to me.
Farm work was extremely boring and repetitive, but the worst part was that we had to miss weeks of school in the fall to help with the harvesting. We grew corn and peanuts; the peanuts required a lot of handwork.
We went to school for the first six grades in Halifax, NC (historically interesting for the Halifax Resolutions, a precursor of the Declaration of Independence). There were two classes in each room, but the teachers were dedicated and anyone who worked could get a good education. (I found later that I had learned by the fifth grade all the grammar that I would ever need.) For eighth grade through twelve, we went to Weldon, NC, a few miles away.
During my first several school years, in Tarboro, we walked to school; I remember carefully stepping into my older siblings footsteps when there was heavy snow (no colorful boots for children in those days; one wore the same shoes year-round, usually handed down from older children). For Halifax and Weldon schools, there was a bus, but we missed a lot of school because the bus couldn't navigate the country roads when there was snow.
In Halifax, the majority of children were from neighboring farm areas (the town was very small). The highest grade was sixth, so the children hadn't developed the attitudes that I would later experience in high school. Between 10 and 11 years old, I had a growth spurt that changed me from the smallest child in the class to the tallest. During outdoor recess, the girls got angry because I played fullout. When we played softball, I knocked the ball out of the play-yard, across a ditch into a field. The girls would complain, refuse to go after the ball, so I would run around the bases, then run to get the ball. When I pitched, the girls couldn't hit the ball. The girls complained to the teachers and they found a solution. They took me over to the boys' area and asked the boys to let me play with them. That worked out so well the best boy player and I became unofficial co-captains and planned all the games. Mostly we would each choose a side, which provided for more balanced play; however, sometimes we would play on the same side and the others didn't have a chance. Mostly, we were fair, making sure the poorer players were distributed so that they wouldn't be a drag on either side too often. (There were some boys who should have played with the girls.) I was allowed to play any position I wanted, even to pitch.
I tell this story at length because I believe this early experience in equality started the spark of feminism in me. One who is treated equally with other humans will later chafe at the slightest inequality.
I also extended this fairness (there was no feminism then) into my family. When I was big enough to work in the fields, I did that and then, at the house, because I was the oldest girl at home (the older sisters left as soon as they finished high school), I helped my mother. Many times I would be ironing while my father and the other children relaxed. I simmered in this situation for a while, then one day I announced that I would do all housework during hours when everyone was working; thus, I did washing (with tubs and a scrubbing board and hanging clothes on a line outside), ironing, cleaning and any other household tasks while the others worked in the fields.
For seventh grade to twelfth, I transferred to Weldon, a bit larger town. There I ran into prejudice against children who came on the bus; the town children felt very superior and did not associate with us.
There was even a more serious problem; in the fall, farm children were kept out of school for weeks to help bring in the crops, especially the peanuts which had to be handled by hand. It broke my heart not to go to school, but as soon as I could go back I would get all my assignments from the teachers and catch up as soon as possible.
But I was completely surprised one day when a teacher drew me aside and asked if I could manage to get a white dress, that I was number one in the junior class and thus was to be the grand marshal at graduation, leading in the seniors.
I had learned to sew in Home Economics class so I just needed material. I had been carrying eggs to sell to the school cafeteria for my mother (a story in itself: think of the other kids teasing me while I sat on the bus protecting the box of eggs). She let me keep enough money from egg sales to buy material to make a dress. The next year I was valedictorian and had to make a speech, a very painful experience since I was extremely shy and knew the other children didn't want to hear a word from me.
I had not even thought of going to college, as I knew there was no money. Again, a teacher helped; she gave me a check for $200 and said "some citizens of the town" were proud of me and wanted to give me a start for college (I was never to know who they were); she gave me all the materials to apply, as well as applications for scholarships. I had attended Girls State at Woman's College in Greensboro (later University of North Carolina at Greensboro), so I applied and was accepted. I decided I could work at school and summers as a waitress at beach resorts, and make it somehow. Waitressing was the hardest job I've ever done, exhausting, low pay, nasty bosses; but because it was for college I could do it.
Before I went to college, I gathered all my childhood things: papers, valentines, letters, etc.-everything that pertained to my childhood, took them out into the yard and burned them. While they were burning, I told myself I was leaving the old life and all its slights and difficulties behind; I forgave all insults, slights and indignities, whether from family or outsiders and consciously began a new life.
College was my element; studying and learning were heaven; I couldn't take enough classes, even had battles with deans and advisors who called me in to say I was taking too many classes. I was a double major in English and Drama with a minor in Education. I also wanted to take Art classes because it would be valuable for some of the work in Drama courses; there were huge objections-only Arts students could take Art classes.
I spent my graduating summer, 1952, on staff at the Burnsville School of Arts, near Asheville, NC, working on every aspect of play production and helping with the students. The teachers were top grade; for instance, in music, John Cage; dance, Merce Cunningham. But my favorite was the Arts Director, Dr. Gregory Ivy; I used to discuss with him wanting to go for higher degrees but not having money; he told me to skip the degrees and just keep reading, that I could do well on my own as rules for degrees would limit me. (His art class was one that I had had to fight to take, as I wasn't an art major; he had agreed to let me in.)
My drama teacher at Greensboro got a job for me at Kannapolis, NC as English and Drama teacher; he had a theatrical business and had just shipped them a huge amount of equipment, the latest in lights, etc. and he had taught me to operate them. When I got there, no one had touched them; no one knew how to put a backstage area together; the principal borrowed some technicians from town businesses and I showed them how to set up all the equipment and started planning for play production. That part worked out fine; the students were excited and receptive and some of them benefited greatly from the experience.
The classroom was another matter; the students were well behaved but totally uninterested in school, in learning; they did the least they could do to get by. Some of them even turned in papers on plays they hadn't read (I suppose they thought I hadn't read the plays or maybe wouldn't read their papers). The principal was surprised when I didn't renew my contract.
One of my friends from drama classes in college, a girl from New Jersey who was living in New York trying to get acting jobs, invited me to visit her; I came to NY in October 1953 expecting to stay a few weeks, see some plays and go back home and look for work.
During this period, I went to a Christmas party hosted by an interesting young man named Irvin Faust, who was studying acting at the Neighborhood Playhouse. We began to see each other.
To maintain myself in NY, I took a temporary job at De Pinna, a department store at 52nd Street on Fifth Avenue. After Christmas, I registered with a temporary agency and worked at various businesses; when I worked for a few days at Elizabeth Arden, I was offered a permanent job. As was common for women in those days, I was paid very little and not offered advancement (later found that my immediate boss had not passed on to me promotion offers from the executive staff); later, I went to Mark Cross as Director of the Mail Order Department. They advertised in the Times, "Call our Miss Satterthwaite for all your gift orders." After a couple of years, I was promoted to Buyer. However, the unrelenting long hours (sometimes even on Sunday) of retail work wore me down and in 1962 I retired to have a rest and recover my health.
On August 29, 1959, I had married Irvin Faust. Having housewife duties added to my fulltime job had proved to be a strain as well. He had changed his career to Counseling, earned his Masters and Doctorate and gone from teaching to being Guidance Director at a Long Island High School. His doctoral thesis had been published by Teacher's College and his counselor told him he should write. So at night he worked on short stories. All the work of our life together, maintaining the apartment, paying the bills, taxes, etc. was left to me, as was the typing of his stories. After some of them were published, he began to get calls from publishers asking if he had a book. When it was time to prepare a manuscript of a book of short stories, there was no way I could do that and continue in my demanding job. I thought he was an original and authentic talent, so I resigned and applied myself to helping him with his manuscripts.
Those were days of great political turmoil, especially on the West Side of NYC where we lived; the Reform Democrats were replacing the old clubs. I joined one of the Reform clubs and quickly found that reform had not extended to equal rights for women. All the work of the club, especially mailings, was done by the women while the men stood around talking. Presidents were always men;
secretaries were women. I watched these unreformed practices for about a year and then started talking to the women. I set up a committee on women's rights. We elected a woman as president and I was elected treasurer (having refused to run for secretary). Some of the men were furious about my activities, some were amused, a few were understanding, even sympathetic. A few women were active supporters, but many were reluctant, afraid of the men's disapproval.
One day during an election campaign, a man walked into the club and yelled, "We need a pretty girl to hand out literature." I went over and reproved him and suggested he should have said, "We need a person..." He countered, "No, we want a pretty girl; people are more likely to accept flyers from a pretty girl." I saw I couldn't convince him, but I accepted the assignment so I could see how the campaign was going on the street. That proved to be lucky for me, as after meeting Congressman William F. Ryan I became an aide to him on Environmental matters, which was quite new then as an area of interest-about 1963. The public was not much concerned and even most of his staff thought it was a waste of his time.
I don't know how I was on the list, but I got a postcard for the first meeting of NOW in NYC and couldn't wait to attend. It was a small group and we were asked to stand, give our names and occupations. Probably because I worked for the congressman, I was asked after that meeting to form the first chapter in NYC and act as first president.
Our first NOW meeting was February 6, 1967. As organizing president I prepared the Chapter Kit, held Chapter meetings; answered mail, sent mailings-all without benefit of office space, equipment, supplies-or secretary. Any available area of our small apartment was "office"; our phone was NOW's phone. Equipment and supplies were cadged where members worked; only stationery, stamps and paper were purchased. We had no expense account. Later, as we gained membership, there was limited reimbursement. My husband suffered many inconveniences because of my work with NOW-and paid for it, both in money and inconveniences. He also paid for my trips to meetings and conventions.)
Besides chapter meetings, committee meetings, projects and demonstrations, I spoke to women's groups and to schools and wrote articles for local West Side paper.
I handled mailings on NOW proposals for New York State Constitutional Convention (up to 10 pages, 200 packets-no copying equipment, no Xerox machine) to all delegates-about six times. I made appearances at hearings, did mailings to women's groups asking support for proposals. (In those early days, little support was forthcoming from women's groups; their causes were peace, anti-nuclear efforts and social issues such as care of children & poverty; they did not comprehend that there were women's issues.)
I met with newspapers, asking them to organize classified ads by job category rather than sex; organized demonstrations and work with EEOC and Human Rights Commission to persuade newspapers and led a demonstration against Nat'l Assoc. of Newspapers pub. because they appealed EEOC ruling in our favor.
In fall of 1967 I helped organize an action for Pauline Dziob, stewardess for Moore-McCormack Lines who had been denied job as yeoman because "it's a man's job"; she had done all the work while the man was ill.
That November I helped organize the NY chapter push at the National Conference for a strong stand on ERA and abortion rights.
That December I helped organize a demonstration againstthe EEOC for failing to act on women's problems and for denying permission to me and Betty Friedan to speak at New York hearings.
In January of '68 I picketed and attended EEOC hearings every day where I had to listen to claims that they were unable to find "qualified" women to testify.
All that year we were supporting the women who were suing Colgate-Palmolive, and, led by Barbara Love and Anselma del Olio, we worked all year to organize a touring demonstration with cars and signs, feminist filibusters and street theater, calling for boycott of C-P products.
In September of '68 I was alerted by Sonia Pressman, who worked at the EEOC, that the Senate Finance Committee sneaked an amendment onto a soil conservation bill that would allow large companies to treat men and women differently in retirement policies. Thus I made many phone calls and wrote letters to Finance Committee, senators, and congressmen to object to this attack on the rights of working women. (The real purpose was to allow companies to force women to retire earlier with fewer benefits.)
At request of Exec. Committee I led a debate against a change in NOW'S by-laws (a small group was calling for participatory democracy, rotating officers, etc.) and, also at request of Exec Comm., resumed presidency when NYNOW's second president, Ti-Grace Atkinson resigned. I then organized a mailing to assure national officers and other chapters that NOW-NY had not "split" as rumored, that work was continuing. This effort to replace the structure of NOW-NY with an unworkable, though idealistic, system was misguided and unfair; some members didn't seem to understand that holding office was work and responsibility.
By the end of 1967, I was exhausted mentally and physically, from the strain of running an "office" singlehandedly, writing (and typing-no word processors then) statements and correspondence-for two jobs. 1968 was an even bigger strain because of the small but energetic movement for changes in structure. But I was exhilarated to be working on the problems that blocked women from self-realization.
In February of 1960 during National Public Accommodations Week I demonstrated against For Men Only Restaurants and Bars. (What a good feeling that it now seems quite ridiculous that restaurants catering to businessmen once barred women.)
Also in February NOW joined the suit of stewardesses against United Airlines; we picketed with them in Chicago in a bitter wind; one girl whose supervisor objected to her small afro fared much better than her windblown sisters.
In March we demonstrated in front of Governor Rockefeller's office to support the Cook bill on abortion. I lectured at Hunter College on The Contemporary Woman and Her Impact on the Contemporary Male. Insisted both sexes would benefit from ending the oppression of women.
May of that year was Freedom for Women Week (Motto: Rights not Roses). We demonstrated at the White House in blistering heat-why did we always have extreme weather for demonstrations? Some women were terrified at taking this action, particularly lawyers and other professionals, for fear it would affect their career, but most of us were bothered by the men in dark suits carefully taking our pictures. We'd heard the FBI made files on anyone who picketed the White House.
In August I testified in Washington at Dept. of Labor hearings on EEOC Enforcement Act. As a result of NOW's (and other groups) efforts, EEOC decided that Title VII supersedes State's Protective Legislation. (Dept. of Labor issued a similar ruling.) (State "protective" legislation had been designed to "protect" women from getting many jobs, thus protecting men's rights to keep them . I pointed out that women regularly lifted 20 pounds and more in the form of babies and children and asked him if he'd ever lifted a squirming 20-lb baby from a bath.}
Several times in 1969 I was asked to prepare materials for various media people who wanted to do articles or shows on women. All media continued to present feminists negatively.The jokes were contemptuous and threatening at once: Will women use Men's Rooms? Will men become Playboy Bunnies? Women leaders are described as "tireless talkers". A favorite tactic was to use famous women against feminists, usually women whose marriages had conferred position upon them or whose success rested upon approval by men. (For instance when I was speaking on a radio show, Claire Booth Luce called in to ridicule me; I'm sure it had been planned.)
At the end of 1970, WNEW-TV presented a program called "Women are Revolting"; when I wrote to protest the double meaning, I was told the show was intended to provide entertainment, not information.
Working at two jobs and running a household proved to be too much for my health; I had contracted tuberculosis while running congressman Ryan's local office for a few weeks while he was seeking an office manager; I spent two years coughing and running a fever, went to doctors who treated me for sinus problems. No one thought of testing for TB, since it was supposed to have been eliminated. I also have a form of anemia that can't be treated and an underactive thyroid, which doctors were unwilling to treat at that time (I later found one who treated it). Other health problems plagued me and in 1970 I found I had to retire from all outside work.
For a while, I had no activities except running our household. I had been going to performances of the New York City Ballet since it was formed and ballet had become a passion second only to my devotion to my husband. One night, around 1982, I found a note in the program that asked for volunteers . I called and started working a couple of days a week, doing various tasks, from data entry and filing to working the information tables during performances.
Around 1988, I moved over to the School of American Ballet, where most of the performers were trained, and was assigned many tasks related to data entry and maintaining student files. I loved watching the students progress; it was pleasant to work while hearing the music from various classes and peeking into doors as I passed along the halls.
I worked there two days a week until 2009, when Irv fell and cracked a disc in his back. I had to stay home and take care of him. He had other falls and other illnesses (strokes and a seizure) and became so weak that I have continued to stay home and care for him.