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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

The Making of a Jewish American Feminist: Sonia Pressman Fuentes

By Lisa Katz

Part 3: Book Synopsis - The Focus of Sonia's Life

Cornell University

Sonia won a scholarship and was accepted at Cornell University. Her parents were strongly opposed to her going to college. They thought she should get married and raise a family. They feared a college education would turn off  prospective suitors. However, Sonia had no such suitors and Cornell had accepted her, so she decided attend.

In 1950, she graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Cornell. After graduation she returned to live with her parents, who had sold the bungalow colony and moved to Long Island. 

Secretarial Jobs

Women college graduates were not a hot commodity in 1950, and Sonia did not get any job offers. At her parents' recommendation, she went back to school to study shorthand. She had already learned typing in high school. As soon as she completed her shorthand studies, she was offered a secretarial job.

For the next four years, Sonia worked at a variety of secretarial jobs. As a Phi Beta Kappa Cornell University graduate, however, she felt unchallenged and unfulfilled working as a secretary.

Law School

Sonia decided to enroll in the University of Miami School of Law. Her parents and her brother were upset by this decision. They believed she would never find a husband if she became a lawyer. Nevertheless, Sonia attended and graduated first in her class.

Work with the EEOC

After graduation, Sonia began work with the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. Later she took a job with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). All the time, Sonia was looking for that work which would enable her to make that meaningful contribution she felt destined to make. She found it in 1965 when she was hired as the first woman lawyer in the Office of the General Counsel at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

The EEOC was a brand new agency whose mission was to fight employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin (later, discrimination based on age and disabilities were added). As a Jew who had escaped Nazi Germany, the idea of fighting discrimination appealed to Sonia. This was Sonia's entrance into the field of women's rights, which became the focus of her life.

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