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COLLECTION Identifier: MC 612; CD-40; T-361; Vt-167

Papers of Sonia Pressman Fuentes, ca.1929-2009 (inclusive), 1955-2009 (bulk)

Correspondence, transcripts of speeches and other writings, articles and clippings, and notes of attorney, women's rights activist, writer, and public speaker, Sonia Pressman Fuentes.

Dates

  • 1929-2009
  • Majority of material found within 1955-2009

Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Access Restrictions:

Access. The papers are open to researchers, with the following exceptions: edited and unedited versions of her diary (#3.3 - 4.2) and an unedited interview (#6.11 - 6.13) are closed until January 1, 2025. An appointment is necessary to use any audiovisual material.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Sonia Pressman Fuentes retains copyright to all published and unpublished materials written by her in the papers during her lifetime. Upon her death, copyright to all materials will descend in accordance with her will. Copyright in other papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns.

Copying. Papers may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures.

Extent

4.16 linear feet ((10 file boxes) plus 1 folio folder, 1 folio+ folder, 10 audiocassettes, 2 compact discs, 9 videotapes, electronic records)

The papers of Sonia Pressman Fuentes contain correspondence, transcripts of speeches and other writings, a typescript of a diary of her experiences at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, notes, articles, and clippings. Much of the material retains its original groupings within folders. Where possible, these original folder titles have been maintained and appear in quotation marks.

Series I, BIOGRAPHICAL AND PERSONAL, ca.1929, 1948-2009 (#1.1-2.10, E.1-E.2), contains early material relating to Fuentes' college and law school experience; articles and clippings about her career as a law student at the University of Miami and relating to her women's rights activities and memoirs; copies of autobiographical writings; book reviews of her memoirs; announcements and supporting material relating to awards; and correspondence relating to the Midday Club, a professional club based in Stamford, Connecticut, for women in leadership positions. In addition, Fuentes' web site, which includes photographs and other writings, will be captured periodically as part of Harvard University Library’s Web Archive Collection Service (WAX). A PDF version of the 2007 web site, as well as searchable archived versions of the web site starting in 2010, are now available through this finding aid (#E.1-E.2).

Articles and clippings filed in other series may also contain personal and biographical details. The series is arranged alphabetically.

Series II, PROFESSIONAL, 1959-1998 (#2.11-7.10), contains articles and clippings, correspondence and memos, notes, and other records which cover her professional career as an attorney in the federal government and for private corporations. Because many of these professional activities overlap with her work in women's rights, there may be some overlap with papers in Series I.

Subseries A, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, 1960s-1998, n.d. (#2.11-7.6), contains correspondence, articles and clippings, and other materials created during Fuentes' tenure at the EEOC, including drafts, notes, research materials, and correspondence relating to a book Fuentes was writing about the issues faced by the Commission during its early years. The book was never completed. Included, as well, is an edited version of an interview of Fuentes conducted by Sylvia Danovitch, assistant to the chairman of the EEOC, on December 27, 1990. This interview was done in connection with the Commission's 25th anniversary, but never used for that purpose. Edited and unedited copies of a diary that Fuentes kept during her first six months at the EEOC, starting October 4, 1965, will be made available to researchers on January 1, 2025. The diary transcript (#3.7) originally included three computer disks, which have been removed and will be reviewed at a future date. The subseries is arranged alphabetically.

Subseries B, Other professional, 1959-1991 (#7.7-7.10), contains correspondence and articles relating to Fuentes' work at General Telephone Electronics Service Corporation, TRW, and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The subseries is arranged chronologically in the order in which she held the positions.

Series III, SPEECHES AND RELATED, 1963-2009, n.d. (#7.11-10.27), contains transcripts of Fuentes' speeches relating to her work, women's rights, and her personal history. Also included are other writings, such as reports from her attendance at the International Conference on Women's Health in China, testimony on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union, and reports written for the United States Information Agency. Files may contain related clippings, correspondence, publicity, and published versions of the talks, as indicated in the folder titles. Articles and clippings filed elsewhere throughout the collection may include other possible published versions. Some speeches she presented more than once, often with slight edits to the text. Also included is a transcript of an introduction of Fuentes by Anita Willens (#10.1). The series is arranged chronologically, and alphabetically within each year.

Series IV, AUDIOVISUAL AND OVERSIZE, 1956-2008, n.d. (#CD-40.1-2, T-361.2-11, Vt-167.1-6, FD.1, F+D.1), includes compact discs (CD-40), audiocassettes (T-361), and videotapes (Vt-167) of Fuentes' presentations, speeches, and interviews regarding women's rights, her memoirs, and as a breast cancer survivor. The series is arranged chronologically within formats.

BIOGRAPHY

  • 1928-1936 Born in 1928 in Berlin, Germany, to Hinda and Zysia Pressman, who were originally from Poland but had lived in Germany about 20 years. She had one older brother, Hermann, born in 1914. In 1933, leaves Germany with parents to escape Nazis and join Hermann, who had moved to Antwerp, Belgium some months earlier In April 1934, emigrates with family to New York and arrives May 1. Settles in Bronx. In 1936, leaves Bronx for Woodridge, New York, in the Catskills
  • 1941-1946 In 1941, leaves Woodridge for Monticello, New York in the Catskills In 1946, graduates as valedictorian, Monticello High School (Monticello, New York)
  • 1946-1950 Attends Cornell University and graduates Phi Beta Kappa with B.A. in liberal arts
  • 1954-1957 Attends University of Miami Law School and graduates summa cum laude and first in her class in 1957; soon after, passes Florida and D.C. bar exams
  • 1957-1959 Works as law clerk and then attorney with the United States Department of Justice, Office of Alien Property, under Attorney General's program for honor law graduates
  • 1959-1965 Works for National Labor Relations Board On March 26, 1963, testifies in Congress before House Committee on Education and Labor in favor of Equal Pay Act, on behalf of Washington, D.C. chapter of American Civil Liberties Union
  • 1965-1972 In 1965, begins work at Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) as first woman attorney in Office of the General Counsel; later becomes chief of the Legislative Counsel Division of the General Counsel's Office. Responsibilities include enforcing Title VII of Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination in employment based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin. Drafts lead EEOC decision, which determines that practice of airlines to terminate employment of stewardesses when they reach age 32 or 35 or marry, is discriminatory and violates Title VII. In 1965-1966, meets Betty Friedan in EEOC's General Counsel's office and suggests to her that what this country needs is an organization to fight for women like the NAACP fights for African Americans. On October 29-30, 1966, attends organizing conference for National Organization for Women (NOW). Meets in Washington, D.C., apartment of Mary Eastwood with Mary Eastwood, Phineas Indritz, and Caruthers Berger to draft letters to EEOC demanding that action be taken in various areas involving women's rights. In 1968, becomes co-founder of Women's Equity Action League (WEAL) and Federally Employed Women (FEW) In 1970, marries Roberto Fuentes; daughter Zia born in 1972 In November 1972, due to Fuentes' illness, Catherine East delivers Fuentes' testimony on EEOC's experience implementing sex discrimination prohibitions of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 before a select committee of United Kingdom's House of Lords. Anti-sex discrimination legislation subsequently passes in England.
  • 1973-1981 In 1973, leaves EEOC and begins work as senior attorney at headquarters of General Telephone Electronics Service Corporation (GTE) in Stamford, Connecticut In 1974, gives talks on women's rights in Tokyo and Fukuoka, Japan, and meets with leaders in various fields as American specialist on women's rights for United States Information Agency. In 1977, travels to Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, and the Philippines for three weeks in same capacity. In 1978, goes on USIA speaking tour to France and Germany. On March 27, 1980, she and Roberto Fuentes divorce, after being separated since end of 1978 Co-founds the organization Women In Management (WIM) in Fairfield County, Connecticut and serves on board of directors of Woman's Place in New Canaan, Connecticut
  • 1981-1984 Leaves General Telephone Electronics Service Corporation Service Corporation at end of 1981 and commences work with TRW Inc. in Euclid, Ohio, in 1982. Responsible for corporate equal employment opportunity and affirmative action. In 1984, leaves TRW Inc.
  • 1986-1993 In 1986, begins work in Legislative Counsel Division, Office of the General Counsel, at the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in Washington, D.C. In March 1988, HUD selects her for Legis Fellows program, government-wide program to give federal employees congressional experience; works for Senator Howard Metzenbaum on Senate Subcommittee on Labor, and Representative Nancy Pelosi.Fuentes, Mary Eastwood, and Catherine East arrange all-day reunion of NOW founders held on October 24, 1986, in Washington, D.C., to celebrate 20th anniversary of founding of NOW. During meeting, those present recount how they became involved in women's rights and became co-founders of NOW, which comments are taped. In 1990, becomes member of Board of Trustees of National Woman's Party. Becomes charter member of Veteran Feminists of America (VFA), 1992. In 1990, diagnosed with breast cancer and undergoes treatment. In March 1993, participates, as the representative of the American Cancer Society, in the First International Conference on Women's Health in China. In 1993, retires as federal government attorney and subsequently embarks on new careers as writer and public speaker
  • 1996-2000In 1996, Betty Friedan presents her with Veteran Feminists of America Medal of Honor at VFA program in Washington, D.C. In 1999, receives Women at Work Award given by Wider Opportunities for Women (WOW) in Washington, D.C. Also, her memoir, Eat First -- You Don't Know What They'll Give You: The Adventures of an Immigrant Family and Their Feminist Daughter, is published by XLibris. In 2000, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees creates Gallery of Prominent Refugees, which includes Fuentes, to celebrate its fiftieth anniversary. Inducted into the Maryland Women's Hall of Fame in Annapolis.
1928-1936
Born in 1928 in Berlin, Germany, to Hinda and Zysia Pressman, who were originally from Poland but had lived in Germany about 20 years. She had one older brother, Hermann, born in 1914.
In 1933, leaves Germany with parents to escape Nazis and join Hermann, who had moved to Antwerp, Belgium some months earlier
In April 1934, emigrates with family to New York and arrives May 1. Settles in Bronx.
In 1936, leaves Bronx for Woodridge, New York, in the Catskills
1941-1946
In 1941, leaves Woodridge for Monticello, New York in the Catskills
In 1946, graduates as valedictorian, Monticello High School (Monticello, New York)
1946-1950
Attends Cornell University and graduates Phi Beta Kappa with B.A. in liberal arts
1954-1957
Attends University of Miami Law School and graduates summa cum laude and first in her class in 1957; soon after, passes Florida and D.C. bar exams
1957-1959
Works as law clerk and then attorney with the United States Department of Justice, Office of Alien Property, under Attorney General's program for honor law graduates
1959-1965
Works for National Labor Relations Board
On March 26, 1963, testifies in Congress before House Committee on Education and Labor in favor of Equal Pay Act, on behalf of Washington, D.C. chapter of American Civil Liberties Union
1965-1972
In 1965, begins work at Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) as first woman attorney in Office of the General Counsel; later becomes chief of the Legislative Counsel Division of the General Counsel's Office. Responsibilities include enforcing Title VII of Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination in employment based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin. Drafts lead EEOC decision, which determines that practice of airlines to terminate employment of stewardesses when they reach age 32 or 35 or marry, is discriminatory and violates Title VII.
In 1965-1966, meets Betty Friedan in EEOC's General Counsel's office and suggests to her that what this country needs is an organization to fight for women like the NAACP fights for African Americans.
On October 29-30, 1966, attends organizing conference for National Organization for Women (NOW). Meets in Washington, D.C., apartment of Mary Eastwood with Mary Eastwood, Phineas Indritz, and Caruthers Berger to draft letters to EEOC demanding that action be taken in various areas involving women's rights.
In 1968, becomes co-founder of Women's Equity Action League (WEAL) and Federally Employed Women (FEW)
In 1970, marries Roberto Fuentes; daughter Zia born in 1972
In November 1972, due to Fuentes' illness, Catherine East delivers Fuentes' testimony on EEOC's experience implementing sex discrimination prohibitions of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 before a select committee of United Kingdom's House of Lords. Anti-sex discrimination legislation subsequently passes in England.
1973-1981
In 1973, leaves EEOC and begins work as senior attorney at headquarters of General Telephone Electronics Service Corporation (GTE) in Stamford, Connecticut
In 1974, gives talks on women's rights in Tokyo and Fukuoka, Japan, and meets with leaders in various fields as American specialist on women's rights for United States Information Agency. In 1977, travels to Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, and the Philippines for three weeks in same capacity. In 1978, goes on USIA speaking tour to France and Germany.
On March 27, 1980, she and Roberto Fuentes divorce, after being separated since end of 1978
Co-founds the organization Women In Management (WIM) in Fairfield County, Connecticut and serves on board of directors of Woman's Place in New Canaan, Connecticut
1981-1984
Leaves General Telephone Electronics Service Corporation Service Corporation at end of 1981 and commences work with TRW Inc. in Euclid, Ohio, in 1982. Responsible for corporate equal employment opportunity and affirmative action.
In 1984, leaves TRW Inc.
1986-1993
In 1986, begins work in Legislative Counsel Division, Office of the General Counsel, at the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in Washington, D.C. In March 1988, HUD selects her for Legis Fellows program, government-wide program to give federal employees congressional experience; works for Senator Howard Metzenbaum on Senate Subcommittee on Labor, and Representative Nancy Pelosi.
Fuentes, Mary Eastwood, and Catherine East arrange all-day reunion of NOW founders held on October 24, 1986, in Washington, D.C., to celebrate 20th anniversary of founding of NOW. During meeting, those present recount how they became involved in women's rights and became co-founders of NOW, which comments are taped.
In 1990, becomes member of Board of Trustees of National Woman's Party. Becomes charter member of Veteran Feminists of America (VFA), 1992.
In 1990, diagnosed with breast cancer and undergoes treatment. In March 1993, participates, as the representative of the American Cancer Society, in the First International Conference on Women's Health in China.
In 1993, retires as federal government attorney and subsequently embarks on new careers as writer and public speaker
1996-2000
In 1996, Betty Friedan presents her with Veteran Feminists of America Medal of Honor at VFA program in Washington, D.C.
In 1999, receives Women at Work Award given by Wider Opportunities for Women (WOW) in Washington, D.C. Also, her memoir, Eat First -- You Don't Know What They'll Give You: The Adventures of an Immigrant Family and Their Feminist Daughter, is published by XLibris.
In 2000, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees creates Gallery of Prominent Refugees, which includes Fuentes, to celebrate its fiftieth anniversary. Inducted into the Maryland Women's Hall of Fame in Annapolis.

ARRANGEMENT

The collection is arranged in four series:
  1. Series I. Biographical and personal, ca.1929, 1948-2009 (#1.1-2.10, E.1-E.2)
  2. Series II. Professional, 1959-1998 (#2.11-7.10)
  3. ___Subseries A. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, 1960s-1998, n.d. (#2.11-7.6)
  4. ___Subseries B. Other professional, 1959-1991 (#7.7-7.10)
  5. Series III. Speeches and related, 1963-2009, n.d. (#7.11-10.27)
  6. Series IV. Audiovisual and oversize, 1956-2008, n.d. (#CD-40.1-2, T-361.2-11, Vt-167.1-6, FD.1, F+D.1)

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession numbers: 87-M41, 88-M154, 89-M42, 89-M70, 90-M169, 92-M109, 96-M69, 98-M102, 2006-M110, 2006-M113, 2006-M138, 2007-M126, 2008-M31, 2009-M128

The papers of Sonia Pressman Fuentes were given to the Schlesinger Library by Sonia Pressman Fuentes between 1987 and 2009.

SEPARATION RECORD

Donors: Sonia Pressman Fuentes

Accession numbers: 87-M41--2009-M128

Processed by: Laura Peimer

The following items have been removed from the collection and added to the Schlesinger Library printed materials collection:
  1. A Case for Equity: Women in English Departments (National Council of Teachers of English, 1971)
  2. New Cleveland Woman Journal (February 1984)
  3. Iris: A Journal About Women (winter/spring 1996)
  4. West Coast Woman (May 1997)
  5. Moxie: A Magazine for Women (Sept/Oct 1997)
  6. Women's American ORT Reporter (Spring 2006)
The following periodical was transferred to Harvard University, Widener Library, Judaica Division:
  1. Jews (issue 5, Passover 2001)

Processing Information

Processed: October 2009

By: Laura Peimer
Link to catalog
Title
Fuentes, Sonia Pressman. Papers of Sonia Pressman Fuentes, ca.1929-2009 (inclusive), 1955-2009 (bulk): A Finding Aid
Author
Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America
EAD ID
sch01256

Repository Details

Part of the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute Repository

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