Sonia Fuentes

Sarasota, FL

“As a refugee, a Jew and a woman, fighting discrimination is the passion of my life.”

In 1993, at the age of sixty-five, I retired from over three decades as an attorney with various agencies of the federal government and two corporations. I began 5 years of research and writing for my memoir, Eat First–You Don’t Know What They’ll Give You, The Adventures of an Immigrant Family and Their Feminist Daughter.

I had been the first woman attorney in the Office of the General Counsel at the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) and a founder of NOW (National Organization for Women.) At the EEOC, I drafted the lead decision for the EEOC finding that the airlines’ policies of terminating or grounding stewardesses upon marrying or reaching the age of 35 violated Title VII.

After moving to Sarasota, Florida, I currently serve on the program committee of my Congregation for Humanistic Judaism. I have worked as a volunteer with UnidosNow, an organization that seeks to improve the status of Hispanics in this area by introducing its leaders and staff to other organizations in the area so that they can build bridges and work together.  I mentor two young women: one is a single Modern Orthodox woman currently in her sophomore year at Harvard University; the other is a married Muslim woman who works in New York City.

A whole new area of my life opened up in 2010 when I learned that a museum was being built in Antwerp, Belgium dedicated to immigration and the Red Star Line ships.  Escaping the Nazi regime in Germany in 1933, my family boarded a Red Star Line ship and came to the U.S. I was the only surviving passenger to attend the Museum’s opening in 2013.

As a refugee, a Jew and a woman, I became involved in fighting discrimination of any kind, whether it is based on age, gender, race, color, religion, national origin, physical or mental disability, marital status, or any other invidious form of discrimination.  It is the passion of my life.  I hope my work has contributed to improving the status of women in the U.S. and throughout the world.  I would like the world to know that older workers, because of their experiences, knowledge and ability have much to contribute.