Sonia Pressman Fuentes

Timeline of Some of Sonia Pressman Fuentes' (SPF) Activities Through Nov. 4, 2004

This is not a complete list of all of Sonia’s activities, including her talks, during the time included. Among the talks excluded are some of the talks she gave as an "American specialist" on the women's rights movement for the then-U.S. Information Agency (USIA) in Spain, Germany (Berlin, Munich), Japan (Tokyo and Fukuoka), the Philippines (Manila), Thailand (Bangkok, Chiang-Mai), Singapore, and Indonesia (Jakarta).

1920: 19th Amendment to the Constitution is ratified, giving women the right to vote, after a long struggle involving Eliz. Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Lucretia Mott, Alice Paul, and others. From 1920 to the early 1960s, small groups of women’s rights activists continued the fight for women’s rights but women did not acquire any additional legal rights during this period.

May 1, 1934: SPF arrives in the U.S. with her immediate family from Berlin, Germany, via Antwerp, Belgium. She is one month short of her 6th birthday.

June 1946: SPF graduates as valedictorian of Monticello High School in Monticello, N.Y.

June 1950: SPF graduates Phi Beta Kappa from Cornell University (psychology major; spends her senior year in the first year of the two-year Graduate School of Business & Public Administration).

June 1957: SPF graduates summa cum laude and first in her class from the University of Miami School of Law. Subsequently she passes both the Florida and D.C. bar exams.

Sept. 1957: SPF begins work as a law clerk at the U.S. Dept. of Justice, Office of Alien Property, under the Attorney General’s Program for Honor Law Graduates.

May 4, 1959: SPF leaves the Office of Alien Property and begins work at the National Labor Relations Board (NRLB).

Dec. 14, 1961: President Kennedy by Executive Order establishes the President’s Commission to review and make recommendations on the status of women.

1963: The President’s Commission issues its report, American Women.

March 26, 1963: SPF (age 34), on behalf of the ACLU, testifies before the House Committee on Education and Labor in favor of the Equal Pay Act.

1963: Congress passes the Equal Pay for Equal Work Act (after 23 years of lobbying by women), which requires equal pay for equal or substantially equal work without regard to sex, to become effective in 1964.

Nov. 1, 1963: President Kennedy, 3 weeks before his assassination, signs an executive order establishing the Interdepartmental Committee on the Status of Women and the Citizens’ Advisory Council on the Status of Women to facilitate carrying out the recommendations in American Women.

1964: Equal Pay Act becomes effective and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is passed, to be effective in 1965 and to be implemented by the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission). Title VII prohibits discrimination in employment based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin by covered employers, employment agencies and labor unions. Later, discrimination based on age and mental and physical disabilities are added to the EEOC’s responsibilities.

July 2, 1965: EEOC commences operations.

Oct. 4, 1965: SPF begins work at the EEOC as the first woman attorney in the Office of the General Counsel. At that time, the EEOC consists of about 100 permanent employees, and the GC’s Office consists of the General Counsel, the Deputy General Counsel, SPF, and a junior attorney. SPF subsequently becomes chief of the Legislative Counsel Division of the General Counsel’s Office and receives an Outstanding Performance Award for her work.

Some time in 1965: Two stewardesses file a complaint with the EEOC about the airlines’ policies of grounding or terminating stewardesses when they reach the age of 32 or 35 or marry. SPF later drafts the lead EEOC decision finding that these policies violate Title VII.

Dec. 1965: SPF delivers her first talk on Title VII and its requirements in the Detroit, Michigan, area to the Women’s Dept. of the United Auto Workers (UAW).

1966: SPF drafts the second “Digest of Legal Interpretations Issued or Adopted by the Commission from Oct. 9, 1965, through Dec. 31, 1965.” This compilation is published as a 30-page booklet by GSA (General Services Administration). (A prior digest had been issued for the July 2-Oct. 8, 1965, period, which was not drafted by SPF.)

Probably in 1966, perhaps 1965: In Fuentes’ office, SPF suggests to Betty Friedan, on one of  Friedan’s visits to the General Counsel’s Office in connection with her research for a new book, that what this country needs is an organization to fight for women like the NAACP fights for its constituents. In an article in the New York Times Magazine Section on March 4, 1973, Betty Friedan refers to SPF as making this suggestion to her. Friedan also refers to SPF’s making this suggestion to her in her book, It Changed My Life (p. 80).

May 31, 1966: SPF drafts an influential nine-page memorandum (with twelve pages of footnotes) to General Counsel Charles T. Duncan on the “Use of Statistics in Title VII Proceedings.”

June 1966: At the Third National Conference of Commissions on the Status of Women in Washington, D.C., 28 women begin the founding of NOW. (SPF not present).

Oct. 29 and 30, 1966:  NOW organizing conference in the basement of the Washington Post building attended by 21 men and women (including SPF) not present at the June 1966 meeting.  Those present adopt a statement of position and skeletal bylaws. Thereafter, SPF meets in the SE Washington, D.C., apartment of Mary Eastwood with Mary, Phineas Indritz, and Caruthers Berger and they draft letters to the EEOC (based on what SPF has seen at the EEOC) demanding that action be taken in various areas involving women’s rights.

Oct. 1965-June 1973: SPF is part of an informal network of men and women in mid-level positions in the federal government who share information on women’s rights cases and issues. SPF shares with this network information on women’s rights cases that are developing at the EEOC; Catherine East then shares this information with Marguerite Rawalt, a trailblazing feminist attorney, who, in turns relays it to her network of feminist attorneys, who then represent the complaining parties in precedent-setting sex discrimination lawsuits.

1968: SPF is one of the founders of WEAL (Women’s Equity Action League), a spin-off from NOW, and FEW (Federally Employed Women). FEW grew out of a course taught by Helen Dudley that Fuentes and other federally-employed women attended sponsored by the Dept. of Agriculture.

1972: Congress gives the EEOC the power to enforce its orders in the courts.

Nov. 1972: SPF’s testimony on the EEOC’s experience enforcing the sex discrimination prohibitions of Title VII is presented before a Select Committee of the House of Lords, which is considering the passage of anti-sex discrimination legislation. The UK legislation is subsequently passed.

June 18, 1973: SPF leaves the EEOC and begins work as a senior attorney at the headquarters of GTE Service Corporation in Stamford, CT. She is GTE’s highest-paid woman employee at its corporate headquarters.

Some time between June 18, 1973, and the end of 1981: SPF, an “American specialist” on the women’s rights movement for the then-USIA (US Information Agency), gives talks on women’s rights in Tokyo and Fukuoka, Japan.

After June 18, 1973, and before Dec. 1981: SPF meets with representatives of the Ontario Department of Labour and the Women’s Dept. in Toronto, Canada, to share with them the EEOC’s experience in implementing Title VII’s prohibitions against sex discrimination in employment.

June 1973 and before Dec. 1981: SPF is a founder of Women in Management (WIM) in Fairfield County, CT.

Some time from 1974 and before the end of 1981: SPF serves for a number of years on the Board of Directors of Woman’s Place, in New Canaan, CT., an organization that provides services for women, including courses, the most popular of which is a course on divorce.

1977: SPF goes to Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines for 3 weeks as an “American specialist” on women’s rights for USIA. She meets with, and gives talks to, leaders of government, industry, unions, academia, lawyers and judges, and women’s groups. She is the first woman to address the Rotary Club of Chiang-Mai,Thailand. One of her talks, “The Changing Status of Women in the United States,” is subsequently published in the Philippine Law Journal (Vol. 52, No. 5, Dec. 1977). Her article on her impressions of the status of women in southeast Asia gained during this trip is published in Common Sense, an international law journal. Her article on the Thailand portion of her trip is a chapter in her memoir.

1978:  Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 amends Title VII and codifies the EEOC’s 1972 Guidelines on Pregnancy and Childbirth drafted by SPF.

Nov. 1978: SPF goes on a speaking tour as an “American specialist” on women’s rights for USIA for one week in France and two in Germany. Her article about her experiences on this trip is subsequently published and forms the last chapter of her memoir. While in Europe, SPF meets with a representative of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg interested in women’s rights. On Nov. 21, 1978, SPF is interviewed and taped in Munich by Dr. Michaela Ulich, a feminist who is preparing an American Studies program for German high school students.

End of 1981: SPF leaves GTE and commences work with TRW Inc. in Cleveland, Ohio, where she is also the highest-paid woman at headquarters. She is responsible for corporate EEO and affirmative action.

Feb. 1984: Fuentes is featured as one of Cleveland, Ohio’s six top corporate women executives in the New Cleveland Woman Journal (Vol. 1, No. 11).

Early 1986: Having left TRW Inc., SPF commences work in the Legislative Counsel Division, Legal Dept., at HUD (U.S. Dept. of Housing & Urban Development).

Oct. 25, 1986: SPF, Mary Eastwood, and Catherine East arrange an all-day get-together of NOW founders held in Washington, D.C., at the home of Dick and Nancy Graham, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the founding of NOW. During the meeting, those present recount how they became involved in women’s rights and became founders of NOW. The discussion is tape- recorded and the tapes are in the Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America in Cambridge, MA.

March 14, 1988: HUD selects SPF for the LEGIS Fellows program, a government-wide program to give federal employees experience on Capitol Hill. SPF works on the Hill for 9 1/2 months: from March 14 until the beginning of August, she works for Sen. Howard Metzenbaum on the Senate Subcommittee on Labor; thereafter, until the end of December, she works for Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi. While working for the Congresswoman, SPF drafts and delivers a speech on the women’s movement to a women’s group Congresswoman Pelosi has established in San Francisco.

About 1990: Fuentes becomes a member of the Board of Trustees of the National Woman’s Party. She continues to serve in that capacity until her 2006 relocation to Sarasota, FL.

1991: Legislation gives women the right to secure limited monetary damages for harassment and other intentional sex discrimination. 

Nov.-Dec. 1991:  SPF's article "Surviving Cancer" is published in Surviving!, A Cancer Patient Newsletter 6.6 (Nov./Dec. 1991).

1992: The Veteran Feminists of America (VFA) is founded to honor the pioneer feminists of the Second Wave. SPF is a charter member and serves on the advisory committee.

Apr. 9, 1992: SPF gives a talk to the American Cancer Society.

February 5, 1993: About two weeks after taking office, President Clinton signs the Family and Medical Leave Act, requiring employers to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave each year to employees in connection with the birth or adoption of a child or serious illness of a child, spouse or parents.

Mar. 27-April 8, 1993: As the representative of the American Cancer Society, SPF is one of about 100 delegates on the First International Conference on Women’s Health in China. She travels to Beijing, Xian, Suzhou, and Shanghai to look into the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer and reports on her findings to the American Cancer Society and others. While in Beijing, SPF delivers a talk called “The Legal Revolution in the Employment Rights of Women in the United States Since the Mid-Sixties."

May 29, 1993: SPF retires as a federal government attorney and subsequently embarks on new careers as a community and feminist activist, writer/author, and public speaker. 

June 18, 1993:  SPF talks about her trip to China at the JCC (Jewish Community Center) in Washington, DC.

Oct. 31-Nov. 11, 1993: SPF, a member of the Board of the American Cancer Society, D.C. chapter, goes on a New Israel Fund study tour of Israel, looks into the status of women and the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer there, and reports on her conclusions to the American Cancer Society and others.

Dec. 1993: SPF’s article, “Impressions of the Status of Israeli Women,” is published in the newsletter of the Jewish Women’s Caucus of the National Women’s Conference Committee.

Oct. 25, 1996:  SPF reads selections from her memoir-in-progress at the Washington, DC, JCC at 7:00 p.m.

Nov. 21, 1996: Betty Friedan presents SPF with the Veteran Feminists of America (VFA) Medal of Honor at a VFA program in Washington, D.C.  

Dec. 14, 1996:  SPF reads selections from her memoir-in-progress at the JCC of Greater Washington in Rockville, MD.

1997: Publication of SPF’s article, “Representing Women” in Frontiers, A Journal of Women Studies (Vol. XVIII, No. 3), about the women’s rights movement and her role in it.

Oct. 21, 1997: SPF speaks at the Univ. of VA, Charlottesville, VA, on women’s rights (talk co-sponsored by the Charlottesville Hadassah, UVA’s Jewish Women’s Group, the Women’s Center, and UVA’s NOW chapter).

Jan. 9, 1998: SPF speaks on women’s rights to the Brandeis University National Women’s Committee chapter in Sarasota, FL.

May 1998:  Starting on that date, SPF is interviewed on numerous occasions. These interviews are listed on her website at in the section titled “Interviews of, and Articles about, Sonia Pressman Fuentes.”

June 7, 1998: SPF gives a talk and memoir-reading to the Northern Virginia Havurah at a private home in Annandale, VA.

Aug. 20, 1998: SPF speaks and does a memoir-reading in Hollidaysburg, PA, to the Blair County Genealogical Society.

April 1999: SPF gives talks on the women’s rights movement at the University of Texas--Austin and Pan American branches.

April 9, 1999: SPF talks on “The Shaping of Federal Government Policies on Sex Discrimination and an Update on the Women’s Movement” at the 1st Annual Leadership Conference of MERC (Minority Economic Resource Corporation) in Rosemont, Illinois.

Oct. 10, 1999: SPF is one of the recipients of the 1999 Women at Work Award given by Wider Opportunities for Women (WOW) in Washington, D.C., at a gala held at the Corcoran Gallery of Art. Prior awardees include Glenn Close, Jane Fonda, Katie Couric, and Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Nov. 24, 1999: SPF’s memoir, Eat First--You Don’t Know What They’ll Give You, The Adventures of an Immigrant Family and Their Feminist Daughter, is published in hardback, paperback and as an e-book.

2000: The UN High Commissioner creates a Gallery of Prominent Refugees, which includes SPF, to celebrate its 50th anniversary.

Jan. 18, 2000: SPF speaks about her life at the Flanzer JCC and does a memoir-reading at a Temple Emanu-el Sisterhood Luncheon, both in Sarasota, FL.

Feb. 4, 2000: SPF speaks on women’s rights at The Meadows “U” in Sarasota, FL.

Feb. 10, 2000: SPF speaks about her life at a benefit luncheon for the Temple Beth El Sisterhood in Boca Raton, FL.

Feb. 11, 2000: SPF gives a talk on women’s rights to the women lawyers, paralegals, and other staff at the Holland & Knight law firm in Miami, FL.

Feb. 12, 2000: SPF gives a talk and does a memoir-reading for the residents at 1395 Coral Way, Miami, FL.

Feb. 15, 2000: SPF speaks at Borders Book Store in Coconut Grove, FL.

Feb. 29, 2000: SPF gives a talk and does a memoir-reading at the Gulf Gate Library in Sarasota, FL. 

March 15, 2000: SPF gives a talk to the memoir-reading book group at the home of Franz and Ada Schneider, Stoneybrook Estates, Sarasota, FL.

March 21, 2000: SPF makes comments when she is one of five women inducted into the Maryland Women’s Hall of Fame in Annapolis, MD, for the year 2000.

Mar. 24, 2000: SPF speaks on the beginning of the second wave to the Sarasota Chapter of NOW in Sarasota, FL.

April 12, 2000: SPF speaks to two classes in the ILR (Industrial & Labor Relations) School at Cornell: Women and Work  and  Writing in Industrial and Labor Relations. Eat First was required reading for the latter class. Her talk to the latter class was "How Being an Immigrant Shaped My Life."

April 20, 2000: SPF gives a talk and memoir-reading at a literary luncheon at the Strathmore Hall Arts Center, Rockville, MD.

April 27, 2000: SPF speaks about her memoir at the National Archives in Washington, DC.

April 29, 2000: SPF is a panelist on the subject “How Does an Interesting Life Become a Good Book?” at the Inaugural Bethesda (MD) Literary Festival.

May 9, 2000:  SPF does a memoir-reading at the National Woman's Party headquarters, Washington, D.C.

May 17, 2000: Talk/memoir reading at JCC for the District of Columbia.

May 23, 2000: SPF gives a talk and does a memoir reading at the Barnes & Noble bookstore in Bethesda, MD.

June 14, 2000: SPF speaks on “How I Published My Memoirs: A Lawyer-Feminist’s Story” to the Maryland Writers Association in Annapolis, MD.

July 5, 2000: SPF gives a talk and does a memoir reading at the Classics Club (a club for seniors) in Silver Spring, MD.

July 12, 2000: SPF does a talk and gives a memoir reading at the Martin Luther King Memorial Library in Washington, D.C.

Aug. 14, 2000: SPF talks about her life at the Chevy Chase House in Chevy Chase, MD.

Sept. 6, 2000: SPF talks about “My Journey from Immigrant to Author: One Woman’s Story” at the Ring House in Rockville, MD.

Sept. 18, 2000: SPF speaks on “My Journey from Immigrant to Author: One Woman’s Story” at the Revitz House in Rockville, MD.

Sept. 24, 2000: SPF is a co-panelist at the Workshop on Family History and Memories and gives a talk at Montgomery College, Paul Peck Institute.

Oct. 5, 2000: SPF speaks on “From Lawyer to Author in Six Years” to the National Writers Union, DC Chapter, in Washington, DC.

Oct. 6, 2000: SPF gives a talk and does a memoir reading at Leisure World, Silver Spring, MD.

Oct. 22, 2000: SPF gives a talk and does a memoir reading at a panel on “Life Stories: The Art of the Memoir” at the Sherwood Regional Library, Alexandria, VA.

Oct. 26, 2000: SPF gives a talk and does a memoir reading at the Quince Orchard Library in Gaithersburg, MD.

Jan. 23, 2001:  SPF gives a talk to the Yiddish Vinkl, St. Petersburg, FL.

Feb. 23, 2001:  SPF gives a talk entitled "From Immigrant to Author--One Woman's Journey" in Sarasota, FL.

April 6, 2001: SPF talks about her life and women’s rights to the Palm-Aire Women’s Club in Sarasota, FL.

May 6, 2001: SPF talks about her life to the Sisterhood of Congregation Beth El, Book Group, in Bethesda, MD.

May 12, 2001: SPF talks to the Alpha Xi Delta organization at the “Words in the Woods” program in Columbia, MD.

May 22, 2001: SPF speaks at the Olney Library in Olney, MD, in celebration of the 50th anniversary of Montgomery County Libraries.

July 18, 2001: SPF speaks on “How My Life Was Different” to JCC Day Campers at the JCC of Greater Washington in Rockville, MD.

Sept. 4, 2001: SPF speaks on the women’s rights movement at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Silver Spring, MD.

Oct. 12, 2001: SPF delivers the keynote address at the 20th anniversary celebration of the Women Lawyers of Utah in Deer Valley, Utah. 

Oct. 14, 2001:  SPF delivers a talk to Havurah, Oldtown, Alexandria, VA.

Feb. 4, 2002: SPF speaks on “How Being an Immigrant Affected My Life” at the Selby Library in Sarasota, FL.

Mar. 4, 2002: SPF gives a talk entitled "The Women's Rights Movement: Where It's Been, Where It's At," for the University of W. Florida, Pensacola, at New World Inn, and is interviewed by WUWF TV station.

March/April 2002: Outlook (Vol. 40, no. 2, p. 16), Canada’s progressive Jewish magazine, publishes SPF’s article “A Visit to Piltz,” about her Aug. 2001 trip to Poland and her parents’ village.

Mar. 17, 2002:  SPF speaks on "A Visit to Piltz" to the Jewish Genealogical Society, SW Florida Chapter, at the Flanzer Jewish Community Center, Sarasota, FL.

May 19, 2002: “I Lucky Everything,” Fuentes’ piece about her Vietnamese manicurist, is published in the Washington Post, Outlook Section, "Close to Home" (page B08). An updated version of this piece was published in the Dec. 2004 issue of Passages, the journal of HIAS (Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society).

July 2002: 120 Stories, including SPF’s story of how being an immigrant affected her life, is published by HIAS (Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society) to commemorate its 120th anniversary.

Oct. 2002: Women of Achievement in Maryland History, including SPF, is published.

Oct. 8, 2002: SPF gives the kick-off lecture, "From Immigrant to Feminist: My Role in the Women's Rights Movement," for the Women’s Studies Lecture Series at the Montgomery College-Takoma Park campus.

Nov. 3, 2002:  SPF gives a talk "From Piltz to Piltz: My Family's Story" to the Jewish Genealogy Society of Greater Washington, B'nai Israel Congregation, Rockville, MD.

Sept. 23, 2003: SPF is a panelist at Montgomery College, Rockville, MD, on “Women+Leadership=Change: A Winning Political Equation.”

Mar. 24, 2004: SPF has an online chat with the women’s studies professor and some of the students at San Jose City College in San Jose, CA. Eat First was the featured book at that college for Women’s History Month.

Mar. 28, 2004: SPF gives a talk on her experiences with breast cancer at New College in Sarasota, FL.

May 8, 2004: SPF is a panelist, at the request of Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, at the Dallas (TX) Central Library Auditorium program, “Women: Leading the Charge for Peace and Reconciliation,” at the Third Annual Women’s Peace Dialogue.

April and Nov. 2004: SPF is interviewed by Jennifer Lee, a documentary filmmaker, for a documentary Lee is making on the second wave. (This film was released in early 2013.)