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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

Interview

by J. G. Friedman

February 2000

This interview was first published in Shalom, newspaper for the Reading, PA, Jewish community, February 2000, Volume 30 No. 2.  Shalom is published as a community service by the Jewish Federation of Reading, PA.

At the age of four, Sonia Pressman arrived in this country, from Germany [by way of Belgium], with her parents and older brother.  The year was 1934.  Her book...is a collection of memoirs of a little immigrant girl who grew up to be a very important part of the feminist movement.  She was the first woman attorney in the General Counsel's Office at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and a founder of the National Organization for Women.

Among many other accomplishments, Sonia received the Veteran Feminists of America Medal of Honor in 1996 and the Woman of Work Award from Wider Opportunities for Women in 1999.

Sonia Pressman Fuentes saw that women were not on an equal basis with men, and worked very hard to change that.  During an interview with her, we discussed some interesting subjects.

JGF:  What are you most proud of and most disappointed with the woman's movement?

SPF:  Most proud of:  really the whole thing -- the fact that I was involved.  But I wouldn't have used "proud."  I would have used "grateful" in having the privilege to have played a role.

Biggest disappointment?  I guess a "disappointment" is that the status of women in foreign countries, especially Third World countries, is still as bad as it is -- but I believe and know it will also improve.  I also member being tremendously disappointed when I worked on Capitol Hill for 9 months on a fellowship program in 1988 during which time the Family and Medical Leave Act was up for a vote -- and it was defeated.  I couldn't believe it.  This was a bill that would have permitted women to take an unpaid leave of absence in connection with pregnancy and childbirth (as I remember) and be assured of a return to their job or a comparable job.  But shortly after Bill Clinton was elected president, it was passed and, as I recall, three weeks after taking office, he signed the Act.

Another disappointment was the seating of Clarence Thomas.  I never had any doubt but that Anita Hill told the truth and I was aghast that Thomas was made a Supreme Court Justice of the United States.

Another disappointment is the failure, thus far, for the Equal Rights Amendment to be added to our Constitution.  I am on the Board of Trustees of the National Women's Party.  We continue to fight, with other organizations, for ratification of the Amendment by three more states so it will become a part of our Constitution and women will be guaranteed equal rights in this country under our Constitution.

JGF:  Which parent do you most take after and please give an example.

SPF:  I have always believed I was more like my father.  I had no interest in domestic affairs, like housekeeping and cooking, which were my mother's domain.  My mother, however, was much more than a housekeeper and cook -- but she did handle those responsibilities.  My father was the decision-maker in the house, the one concerned with business (although my mother shared in this) and I was more interested in those aspects of life.   But, like everyone, I have qualities from both my parents.  My father had contempt for education while my mother loved it.  And I pursued an education and still love learning.  My father, however, might not have felt that way had he ever had an opportunity to have an education when he was young.

On the other hand, one of my outstanding qualities is a sense of humor.  Neither of my parents had one.  But my brother and maternal grandfather did.  So -- go know!

JGF:  Tell us about your life these days...how do you spend your time between interviews, book signings, and appearances.  What are your hobbies?

SPF:  I am a computer junky and have many friends, who are very dear to me.  I keep in touch with a great many people through e-mail.

I am still very involved in women's rights and I serve on the Board of the National Women's Party.  I am on the advisory committee of the Veteran Feminists of America, an organization formed to recognize the pioneer feminists of the '60s and '70s of the Second Wave of the women's movement.  I am a member of the National Coalition of Jewish Women.  I speak on various aspects of the women's rights movement.

Beyond that, my interests are much like those of everyone else.  I have a daughter and family members whom I enjoy seeing.  I enjoy meeting friends and going to lectures and theater.  I enjoy reading, when there's time, which lately there's very little of that.  I work out twice a week with a personal trainer at the JCC. [In both Potomac and Sarasota, I live ten minutes away.] I love sunbathing and swimming while in Sarasota.  I've never been one who had hobbies and now wouldn't have time for them.

JGF:  One final question:  what are your plans for tomorrow, next week and next year?

SPF:  Tomorrow I plan to get a manicure at 10 a.m., do as many errands as possible, and meet a friend for dinner.  Next week I begin book-signing and memoirs-reading.  Afterward, some friends from the North are coming to visit -- including my daughter from Chicago!

Furthermore, I have spent 5 1/2 years so far researching for this book, learning to be a writer, writing the book, editing it, getting excerpts and other pieces published in hard copy and on the internet, I'm 71 years old.  Would it be so terrible if I took a little break?

I forgot to include yet a third answer to your question of what I plan to do next.  I'm hoping to be a consultant when the book becomes a best-seller and is turned into a film.  I've already selected Sharon Stone to play me because of her uncanny resemblance to me.  I'm working on casting for my parents and brother.  Do you have any suggestions?

JGF:  Why not re-write your story so that you can add the members of my family too?  As for me, I'll play the part of your grandfather!

SPF:  I haven't the slightest idea about next year.  I'll be hjappy and appreciative to be alive -- as I am today.  When you are a breast cancer survivor, as I am, each day is precious.

Shalom, Feb. 2000