Newsletter

Stay up to date with the latest from MAKERS delivered straight to your inbox. Sign up for new stories from trailblazing women, a big dose of inspiration, and exclusive MAKERS content.

Newsletter Confirmation

Thank you for joining! Please check your inbox for our special welcome letter
with exclusive updates from MAKERS.

Women on the fire truck

MAKERS Moment

Women on the fire truck

More From Brenda

Watch in Cinema View

In this video

On the importance of girls seeing women role models in all professions.

Brenda's Biography

Cause of Choice: Girls Prep Lower East Side Elementary School
Role Models:  Billie Jean King, Gloria Steinem, and Betty Friedan
Trial Run: Before taking on the FDNY, she worked as a lawyer on sexual discrimination cases brought by female NYPD officers.
Awards and Accolades: In 1996-97, she served as a White House Fellow, the first professional firefighter to be awarded this prestigious leadership development fellowship.

Brenda Berkman served the City of New York for 25 years before retiring in 2006 as a captain in its storied Fire Department. Her bravery was twofold: Berkman was summa cum laude graduate of St. Olaf College and was practicing law with a New York University J.D. when, in 1977, the Department began, grudgingly, to allow women to test for firefighter positions. The young lawyer, and FDNY applicant, challenged the fairness and relevance of the newly intensified physical test and won a federal sex discrimination lawsuit that truly opened the Department to female firefighters for the first time. Berkman was among the first class of women hired.
 
Captain Berkman has led organizations of women’s firefighters in both the New York City and nationally while earning one Master’s in American History and another in Fire Protection Management. By now, Berkman’s deep commitment to her Department and to the people of New York has long outlasted the sexual and workplace harassment that came with her pioneering career. To honor friends and colleagues who were lost on 9/11, she volunteers as a guide for walking tours at the Tribute WTC Visitor Center in Lower Manhattan. 

Related Videos

Marian Wright Edelman
Marian Wright Edelman
Founder, Children's Defense Fund

Marian Wright Edelman is a renowned activist who has been fighting for the rights of children for the last 40 years. Through the Children’s Defense Fund that she established ...

Genevieve S. Brown
Genevieve S. Brown
Urban Revitalization Pioneer

Genevieve S. Brown has been called “one of the architects of the New Bronx.” She was a driving force behind the urban revitalization that helped rescue the borough from...

Heather Fleming
Heather Fleming
Designer & Engineer

Heather Fleming is the Founder and CEO of Catapult Design, a non-profit design firm that develops and delivers technology and service solutions to low-income and underserved commun...

Anna Maria Chávez
Anna Maria Chávez
CEO, Girl Scouts of the USA

Anna Maria Chávez is the Chief Executive Officer of Girl Scouts of the USA, and a lifetime member of the group dedicated to building up girls as strong, confident leaders. C...