First Woman Attorney in the Office of the General Counsel at the EEOC
Sonia Pressman Fuentes (1928 – Present)
Sonia Pressman Fuentes is a lawyer, author, speaker and a pioneering feminist leader who fought for women’s equality in the work force and helped initiate the Second Wave of the Women’s Rights Movement.
Fuentes was born in 1928 in Berlin, Germany. She immigrated to the U.S. as a child to escape the Holocaust, arriving in New York with her parents and brother in 1934. In 1957 Fuentes graduated first in her class from the University of Miami School of Law.
She was the first woman attorney in the General Council’s Office at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), a government agency dedicated to enforcing federal employment discrimination laws. While there, she became the staff person responsible for articulating and enforcing the EEOC’s interpretation of the sex discrimination prohibitions of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. As the person who created many of the initial landmark guides and decisions of the EEOC, Fuentes played an extremely significant role in increasing the number of women who entered the work force in the second half of the 20th century.
Fuentes was also one of the original founders of the National Organization for Women (NOW) as well as the advocacy group Federally Employed Women (FEW). In 1998, she published a memoir “Eat First – You Don’t Know What They’ll Give You: The Adventures of an Immigrant Family and Their Feminist Daughter.” Fuentes has also served on the advisory committees of Veteran Feminists of America (VFA) and the Longboat Key Education Center.
Fuentes has dedicated her whole life into making equal rights in the work force, as well as in other arenas of society, a reality rather than just a promise. A key pioneer during the Second Wave of the women’s rights movement, the enduring impact of her work is still evident today.
Did You Know…
In 1967, NOW started lobbying the EEOC to end sex-segregated want ads. The EEOC ruled the practice illegal in 1968 and in 1973 the Supreme Court ruled sex-segregated want ads unconstitutional.