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

Surviving Sexual Assault

Surviving Sexual Assault

More From Brenda

In this video

Berkman opens up about being sexually assaulted and finding strength in cases like Anita Hill.

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

Elizabeth Gore
Elizabeth Gore
Activist & Cause Marketer

Elizabeth Gore grew up working on her family's cattle ranch in Texas. Now the Vice President of Global Partnerships for the United Nations Foundation, she is currently managing...

Tiffany Shlain
Tiffany Shlain
Filmmaker

Emmy-nominated filmmaker and Webby Awards founder Tiffany Shlain is one of Newsweek’s “women shaping the 21st century,” and is on NPR’s list of Best Commenc...

Laura Owens
Laura Owens
Artist

Laura Owens is a Los Angeles-based visual artist whose often largely-scaled paintings represent a blend of abstract and figurative, incorporating whimsical doodles and fine line dr...

Mira Sorvino
Mira Sorvino
Activist & Actor

Mira Sorvino is an award winning actor, mother and an advocate against human trafficking. She was the official ambassador for Amnesty International’s Stop Violence Against Wo...