Sonia Pressman Fuentes

  • -
  • Book Reviews
  • Book Excerpts
  • Buy the Book

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.

Buy the Book

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.

Buy from

Eat First

Eat FirstFollow the Leaders

With female law-school students soon to outnumber men, equality is fast becoming a reality

By Karen DeCrow, Syracuse New Times

April 11-18, 2001

The promising news on the front page of The New York Times:  Women may be taking over the legal profession. (Not my goal.  Only kidding.  All I want is equality.)  For the fall 2000 class at law schools, 49.4 percent of the students were female.  "As of March 9," the newspaper reported, "more women than men had applied for admission to law schools this fall."

Therefore, it is expected that in fall 2001 the majority of law students in the United States will be female.  According to the Times, the change is expected to result in more leadership roles not only in law firms, law-school faculties and the judiciary, but in politics and business.

This is up from 4 percent of law students in 1960, and 10 percent in 1970.  Although 10 percent of the law students were female in 1970, only 3 percent of the practicing lawyers were.  And pioneers they were.

Sonia Pressman Fuentes, 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, describes her experiences in a humorous and significant book, Eat First:  You Don't Know What They'll Give You (Xlibris; Philadelphia; 1999).  "When my parents learned that I was considering going to law school," Fuentes recalls about the 1954 start of her legal career, "they were appalled.  They had been opposed to my going to college because they felt that too much education would hinder my chances of getting married.  Attending law school would, for them, put the final nail in the coffin of my spinsterhood."  (Note to readers:  Relax.  She got married.)

Fuentes graduated from the University of Miami School of Law, got a job with the federal government, and, seeking employment in a law firm, mailed out resumes all over the country.  She also advertised for a job in the ABA Journal and attended every type of networking event she could think of.

At one interview with a law firm she asked for $10,000 a year.  The interviewing partner told her, "Why, if we paid you that you'd be making more than some of the men in this office."  He also added to the cost of her salary the price of building a women's restroom for her, and the difficulty of enforcing a rule against profanity, which her employment would require. (Note to reader:  Relax.  She did not get that position, but she has had a fascinating and successful career.)

Fifteen years later, I started at the Syracuse University College of Law.  It was 1969, and I was the only woman in my class.  For years after I graduated, my mother had the composite photo of our group, the class of 1971, hanging on her wall.  "When a visitor would glance in the direction of the photo, she would say, "Find my daughter."  This was not difficult, as I am the only female person in the composite.  "So, Karen," I was often asked graciously, "why are you taking away a place in law school from someone who plans to practice law?"

Not very long ago, most judges would not hire female law clerks, and most law firms did not recruit women.  Both of our women justices on the U.S. Supreme Court, Sandra Day O'Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, have tales about how impossible it was for them to get jobs after graduation from law school.

Things are not perfect.  Yet.  The proportion of judges, and partners in law firms, who are female has not kept up with the number of law-school graduates.  According to the National Association of Law Placement, although women represent 40 percent of the associates (those working as attorneys who are not partners), fewer than 14 percent of the partners are female.  Of the 655 federal district judges, only 136 are women.

In my opinion, there are enough women in the pipeline, in law, medicine and business, that the leadership positions will come.  At Yale Law School, for example, the administration went out of its way to recruit women students in 1996.  But they no longer take any special steps, because the numbers continue to rise without any particular effort needed.

Perhaps the key factor for inspiring female students to attend professional schools previously open only to men, and for getting their careers on track after they graduate, is the role model, the mentor, who takes an energetic interest in the career of a young person.

So with this "more than half" news that has some of us jumping up and down in a less-than-dignified fashion, why the backlash?  The new magazine Cosmo Girl, aimed at the 14-year-old of today, features an article on how women should make dinner and do the cleaning, and not do men's jobs.  Talk to a teen-ager and you will probably hear, "I'm not a feminist.  My mother was a feminist.  Not me."

Before descending into despair, take a look at their lives.  In these magazines, sprinkled in with pieces on nail polish, thigh reduction and what to say on a date so the boy won't suspect you are smart, are also articles on financial management, racism, going to graduate school and ending discrimination.

More important than the magazines they read is what young women do and plan to do.  They plan college majors, professional school entrance, and careers which were not dreamed of by their grandmothers and very difficult to achieve by their mothers.

I don't care what they call themselves.  As long as they go to law school, or become electricians, or veterinarians, they are feminists to me.

This piece appeared in the Syracuse New Times, April 11 - 18, 2001