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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 5: Book Synopsis - Underground Activity 

NOW

In 1966, Betty and a small group of women planned an organization that later became known as the National Organization of Women (NOW). On a paper napkin, Betty wrote that the purpose of the organization was "to take the actions needed to bring women into the mainstream of American society, now, full equality for women, in fully equal partnership with men."

Twenty-eight of those women signed up as NOW's first founders. Another twenty-six, of whom Sonia was one, met at an organizing conference that October and drafted a statement of purpose and skeletal bylaws. In order to get the EEOC to enforce Title VII for women, NOW filed lawsuits, petitioned the EEOC for public hearings, picketed the EEOC and the White House, and generally mobilized public opinion.

Sonia became involved in an underground activity. At night she would meet with three feminist attorneys to discuss EEOC's inaction with regard to women's rights that she had witnessed during that day or week. They wrote letters from NOW to the Commission demanding that action be taken in those areas. No one at the Commission ever questioned how NOW knew about EEOC's deliberations.

Due to this pressure by NOW, the EEOC began to work more aggressively to eliminate sex discrimination in employment. Hearings were conducted, interpretations were issued, and decisions about women's rights were implemented.

Progress of Women

In the last forty years, great progress has been made with respect to women's rights. Women are now found in large numbers in professional schools and in the professions, and, to a much lesser extent, in executive suites and legislatures. They work at a host of technical and blue-collar jobs previously closed to them. Laws have changed women's rights with regard to abortion, divorce, alimony, child custody, child support, rape, jury service, appointments as administrators and executors of estates, sentencing for crimes, and admission to public places. Our spoken language has changed and work continues on the development of gender-neutral written language.

Still, much remains to be done. Women are not equally represented in political life, in corporate board rooms, and in top positions in academia and unions. Women still do not receive equal pay for equal or substantially equal work. The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) has not yet been ratified. The United States has not ratified the United Nation's Convention To Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). Sexual harassment complaints are increasing. There are a disproportionate number of women in poverty and increasing numbers of women among the homeless. More safe houses and services for battered women are needed. More health care coverage for women is needed. The battle for reproductive choice continues. To help women balance demanding jobs with raising a family, there is a need for affordable, quality child care and household help. In Third World countries,  women are often deprived of basic human rights and sometimes relegated to almost subhuman status.

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