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

50s Click Moments

50s Click Moments

More From Brenda

In this video

Playing sports?  Being school president?  Not if you were a girl in the 50s.  

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

Brandon Holley
Brandon Holley
Fashion Editor-in-Chief

Brandon Holley is the former Editor-in-Chief for Lucky, the award-winning magazine about shopping and style. She began her magazine career as a writer for Paper, which eventually l...

Lauren Berger
Lauren Berger
Career Resource Entrepreneur

Lauren Berger earned the moniker, “The Intern Queen,” after she completed 15 internships during her four years of college. After graduating from Florida State Universit...

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...

Judith Jamison
Judith Jamison
Artistic Director Emerita, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

Dancer and choreographer Judith Jamison joined Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in 1965 and over the next 15 years, originated some of Mr. Ailey's most enduring roles, most n...