“When I’m speaking to an audience, I’m looking at them — sometimes I’m looking at some people in particular — I pick up vibes from the audience. I see what goes over with them, what doesn’t. And I feel that I can take them with me and do things with them. I very often feel like a sculptor who’s making something out of clay. I feel I can do things with the audience.”
– Sonia Pressman Fuentes
from Public Speaking Super Powers
Sonia Pressman Fuentes was born in Berlin, Germany, and came to the U.S. with her family to escape Nazism. She is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Cornell University and a summa cum laude graduate of the University of Miami (Florida) School of Law.
She has been involved in women’s rights since l965 when she joined the General Counsel’s office of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) as its first woman attorney. She drafted one of the EEOC’s earliest Digests of Legal Interpretations, its first Guidelines on Pregnancy and Childbirth, and a number of the EEOC’s initial landmark decisions. She was given an award for Outstanding Achievement at the EEOC.
She is a founder of the National Organization for Women (NOW), the Women’s Equity Action League (WEAL), and Federally Employed Women (FEW) nationally and Women in Management (WIM) in Fairfield County, CT. She is a charter member of the Veteran Feminists of America and served on the Board of Trustees of the National Woman’s Party. In November 1996, at a ceremony honoring the founders of NOW, Betty Friedan presented her with the Veteran Feminists of America Medal of Honor.
Currently, she serves on the advisory committee of the Veteran Feminists of America, as a Commissioner of the Sarasota Commission on the Status of Women, and as co-chair of the Sarasota-Manatee chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
Sonia has lectured extensively in this country and abroad on women’s rights and has written numerous articles on that subject in law reviews and other publications both in the U.S. and abroad. Her testimony was presented to a Select Committee of the House of Lords when England was considering the passage of legislation prohibiting sex discrimination in employment, and she was a consultant to the Women’s Department and the Department of Labour for the Province of Ontario when Ontario was considering the passage of such legislation.
She has traveled as an “American specialist” on women’s rights for the then-USIA (U.S. Information Agency) to France, Germany, Spain, Japan, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Indonesia. She has served as a resource for the Meridian House International Center for foreign visitors with an interest in women’s rights.
In March-April 1993, when Sonia was on the Board of Trustees of the American Cancer Society (ACS)-D.C. Division, she was ACS’s representative to the first International Conference on Women’s Health in China. In November 1993, she spent ten days in Israel on a New Israel Fund tour. Thereafter, she lectured and wrote on the status of women in China and Israel.
Sonia served as an attorney with the federal government (Department of Justice, National Labor Relations Board, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development) for over twenty years and was an attorney and executive with two major corporations (GTE and TRW) for over ten years. She was the highest-paid woman at the headquarters of each of these corporations.
On October 10, 1999, Sonia received the 1999 Women at Work Award given by Wider Opportunities for Women (WOW) in Washington, D.C. Prior awardees included Glenn Close, Jane Fonda, Katie Couric, and Hillary Rodham Clinton. In 2000, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees included Sonia in its Gallery of Prominent Refugees created to commemorate its 50th anniversary. On March 21, 2000, Sonia was one of five women inducted into the Maryland Women’s Hall of Fame. She is included in the reference book, Women of Achievement in Maryland History, published in October 2002. She was selected by the Jewish Women’s Archive (jwa.org/feminism) as one of seventy-four Jewish-American women who played key roles in building and advancing the modern American women’s rights movement. In 2008, she was selected by the Veteran Feminists of America as one of thirty-six feminist lawyers who contributed significantly to women’s rights in the 1963-75 time frame.
Since her retirement in May 1993, she has devoted herself to writing and public speaking. Her memoir, Eat First–You Don’t Know What They’ll Give You, The Adventures of an Immigrant Family and Their Feminist Daughter, has been required reading at Cornell University and American University. Sonia resides in Sarasota, FL.
For more information: www.erraticimpact.com/fuentes.
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