Sonia Pressman Fuentes

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Excerpts from Eat First -- You Don't Know What They'll Give You

  • Jewish Geography -- this story was first published in October 1998 in Der Bay, the newsletter of the International Association of Yiddish Clubs.  Here, both the English version and a version in transliterated Yiddish are available in pdf format.
  • Return to Germany -- the story of Sonia’s return to Germany in 1978 to speak about the women’s rights revolution in the US for the then-US Information Agency (USIA), published on the website of The Jewish Writing Project on Jan. 19, 2009. That story is also contained in the anthology, Marking Humanity, Stories Poems, & Essays by Holocaust Survivors, edited by Shlomit Kriger (Aug. 23, 2010, pp. 226-234).
  • If You Speak His Language --This piece was published in Tzum Punkt (Nov.-Dec. 1999, Vol. 1, No. 2)  p. 5, the newsletter of Yiddish of Greater Washington.
  • Thai Silk -- This piece was first published in the Common Law Lawyer and then on the websites of,, and (September 2001).
  • Florida and Beyond -- This excerpt appeared on May 25, 2001, in the Story Lady e-newsletter and on its website, the Jewish Frontier, the Jewish Internet magazine, the Jewish Magazine online, the e-zine, Home-Based Working Moms, and the Writer Online. Terry Boothman, the editor of the Writer Online, had this to say about it in the January 14, 2003, issue that carried the story:

    Everyone's life is interesting, right? Sure. So, everyone should write a memoir, right? Yeah, why not.. And everyone should publish a memoir, right? Good Lord, no. Because not everyone knows how to write a publishable memoir, which means a memoir that lots of other people will enjoy reading. Sonia Pressman Fuentes, one of the founders of the National Organization for Women, published just such a memoir--"Eat First--You Don't Know What They'll Give You, The Adventures of an Immigrant Family and Their Feminist Daughter." Now, in How I Got My Mink Stole, excerpted from that memoir, you can get a glimpse of exactly how good memoirs are written.

  • Weinberg's Glasses - the story of what happened when Sonia's father found a pair of eyeglasses.
  • Sex Maniac -- the story of the Second Wave of the women's movement and Fuentes' role in it.  
  • Harry Golden and "the Coat" -- Sonia Fuentes sues Harry Golden, published in Jewish Currents, June 16, 1997. 
  • How I Got My Mink Stole -- a lengthy struggle with an unexpected denouement.
  • Eating Out -- published in the April 11, 2001, issue of Writer's Bloc Online, the e-newsletter of the National Writers Union.
  • Graduating With My Class -- Fuentes' desire to graduate with her high school class has a significant consequence.  Published originally in the Catskill/Hudson Jewish Star 6.2 (June 1996) 17.1 and then on Harry Leichter's website.
  • Mother and the Night School -- published in the December 2001, issue of Kolot, A World of Jewish Voices. 
  • Catskills Stories -- Some of Fuentes' stories about her experiences in the Catskill Mountains of New York State may be found at the Museum of Family History.

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cover Eat First -- You Don't Know What They'll Give You,  The Adventures of an Immigrant Family and Their Feminist Daughter by Sonia Pressman Fuentes

Book Ordering Information

In the United States, EAT FIRST can be ordered in paperback and hardback from,, and  The book can be ordered from in the UK and in Canada. EAT FIRST is also available for Kindle which includes free wireless delivery via Amazon Whispernet.

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Eat First

Making A Difference

By Frieda Craft Eakins (appeared in


Ever ask yourself, "Why?" - "Why should I walk in another person's shoes for a moment?" or "Why should I care about the injustices of the world?" or "What difference can I make?" I have certainly asked deeper questions of myself since first meeting the highlighted individual of this article. Her name is Sonia Pressman Fuentes. I cannot say whether you are familiar with her work or the difference she has made; but you may know her if you are truly interested in women's issues or in equal opportunity, for she has had a true impact in these arenas. Whether or not you recognize her name now, you will surely see it very soon on the cover of a book of interesting and humorous stories about life and its sometimes surprising directives.

Why is her story so important? I believe it is of value, because Sonia exemplifies what it means to innately, proactively work toward a better existence for all people. Let me elaborate.

Sonia Pressman Fuentes is Jewish. In today's society, this may seem fashionable, a very "in" thing to be; however, in Nazi Germany during W.W.II, being Jewish denoted the commencement of sorrow and pain, for we know an entire nation suffered under the power of Hitler and the Third Reich. Fortunately, Sonia and her family were able to escape the torture which the Jewish masses endured; yet, they were forced to leave their homeland and forfeit not only a familiar way of life but their livelihood, their friends, all the things they held most dear. It seems her story might be a sad one; yet, it is not, for the experiences Sonia endured as a result of her own ethnicity and her subsequent move to the United States at the age of five helped spark change in societal thinking and in perspectives in our own country regarding women and equality for all people.

Sonia's life was anything but typical and should not be considered "easy" by any means; however, her father had been a successful businessman in Germany and was able to rent and run a rooming house, which afforded the Pressman family a place to live, as well as put food on the table. Sonia's father was always able to find work and was wise with his money. He went on to build and manage a bungalow colony in the Catskill Mountains. Throughout the many changes in their lives, Sonia's mother was an abiding presence in the household. Even so, Sonia felt isolated and alone. She did not dress in the latest styles nor did she have an abundance of friends, for it was uncustomary for Jewish and non-Jewish children to socialize. Whether others thought of her as such, she considered herself an outsider in her new country.

Loneliness might have evoked continued despair, but it did not. Her "isolation" caused her to focus completely on her studies. As a result of her effort, Sonia was able to attend Cornell University, graduating Phi Beta Kappa. She went on to attend the University of Miami School of Law, where she graduated at the top of her class. During her first years in college, she felt resentful for having been cut off from non-Jewish children; however, as the years passed, she began to consider the value of her Jewish birthright. She realized she was part of a people with a rich history and tradition. Today, she is proud of her heritage and freely shares its many facets.

From her college years throughout her adult life, Sonia encountered discrimination toward Jews and toward women. Her background and the struggles she faced made her keenly aware of the many injustices that exist with regard to equal rights. This sparked in her a drive and determination to do her best and to succeed in her work, so that she could make a difference. When asked what one thought Sonia would most like to relay to our readers, she responded, "Try to find something larger than yourself - a cause in which to become involved, and about which you are passionate - for it is immensely enriching."

Following graduation from law school, Sonia faced the difficult task of finding work; however, during her career she would become the highest paid woman for two multinational corporations and later the first female attorney to serve in the Office of the General Counsel for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. In reading her book, one soon learns that the road was not always so glamorous or obstacle free for success does not occur overnight. In fact, she held many career positions, which offered a variety of positive-growth experiences. Sonia's final public employment was with the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, where she retired in 1993.

Faced with the challenge of being a Jewish woman in an often male-dominated, Anglo-Saxon world, Sonia managed great strides in the history of the fight for equality for women by helping found such organizations as the National Organization for Women and by serving as an international speaker on women's issues during her stint as a volunteer for the US Information Agency.

Sonia waited to marry until she was 42 years old and met the challenges of giving birth to her first child at age 43 1/2. In her book, she discusses the concerns she encountered and the difficulties she experienced parenting later in life. Sonia eventually met with the demands of single-parenting and with learning how to balance the responsibilities of career and home. She did both with courage and style.

I would be remiss to neglect to mention Sonia's courageous battle against breast cancer. Though she does not discuss this phase of her life in the book, Sonia's thoughts on breast cancer and its effects can be found at the following URL:

When I spoke with Sonia and asked her to summarize her greatest motivation for service, she promptly responded, "Service? I don't feel I've done any service. I just did what needed to be done. If you see a baby in the middle of the road, you get it out of the way of oncoming cars. Your act may be considered heroic, but your motivation isn't service; it is simply to do what needs to be done. That's how I've responded with regard to women's issues." How profound yet amazingly simple! Action results from what we innately are.

As we talked, I found that Sonia and I had very different perspectives on issues and motivation for taking on specific causes; yet, there was a common bond between us with the belief that each individual is of value, can make a difference, and often only needs a little encouragement to accomplish great things. As members of society, we must seek equality and embrace our differences, learn from the past and work toward the future. I had in consideration of her life found the answers to my initial questions. It is important that I walk in her shoes a moment to gain greater insight and to grow as an individual. I should care about what is happening around me, because I am a part of this world and what I do or don't do affects those around me. I can make a difference - me, one person by simply making an effort. Sonia made an effort.

Upon retirement, Sonia decided to take a step of faith and write her memoirs. She told me that she had been writing stories her entire life, but it was the encouragement she received which spurred her to write professionally. She has been speaking and writing ever since. Her book Eat First...You Don't Know What They'll Give You is available for order after November 10, 1999, from the sources noted below. I was fortunate enough to read a draft copy, and I truly gained something from within its pages. Her words made me laugh and reminded me that while every individual is unique, we share common emotions, joys, and fears.

Sonia was most recently awarde the 1999 Women at Work Award from Wider Opportunities for Women, a nationwide organization established to help women attain economic self-sufficiency. Other women who have received this honor are Katie Couric, Linda Ellerbee, Jane Fonda, and Hillary Rodham Clinton.

I admit having neglected to offer many of the fascinating details of Sonia's life, for I believe I cannot do her justice when she so wonderfully relates them in her book; however, please understand that I have not chosen to write about Sonia so much to sell her book as to tell you her story. I believe she teaches us by example about perspective and about simply doing that which needs to be done. If anyone could have allowed life's circumstances to spark bitterness and resentment, it would be Sonia. Instead, she used her background and her special gifts to do something that has helped society as a whole. In her confident yet humble demeanor, she would probably deny that her effectiveness has been so broad; yet, in reality she has helped change thinking. This is no small task. It is one person making a difference. Imagine what might happen should each of us realize possibility and move forward to improve those things which ought to be changed!