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.

MAKERS Moment

“Prices to be paid”

“Prices to be paid”

More From Brenda

In this video

Berkman describes how she dealt with the intense harassment she faced fighting to integrate the Fire Department.

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

Muriel Fox
Muriel Fox
Co-Founder, NOW

Muriel Fox is a co-founder of the National Organization for Women (NOW) and, as a prominent public relations executive at Carl Byoir, wrote the organization's first press relea...

Nevine Michaan
Nevine Michaan
Teaching Yoga to Women

Nevine Michaan was born in Egypt in 1954 and moved to New Rochelle, New York at the age of three. She began studying meditation and yoga after college, and soon began training in N...

Linda Bray
Linda Bray
Captain, US Army (Ret)

Captain Linda Bray was the first woman to lead US troops into battle, during the invasion of Panama in 1989. In 1982, she joined the ROTC. In 83, she was assigned to duty in German...

Katie Couric
Katie Couric
Network News Pioneer

Katie Couric is an award-winning journalist and TV personality whose time in the storied anchor chair of the "CBS Evening News" made her the first woman to serve as sole ...