Brenda Berkman

First NYC female firefighter

Brenda Berkman is a pioneering firefighter. Born in Asheville, North Carolina in 1951, she studied history before qualifying as a lawyer. When, in 1977, new legislation forced the New York Fire Department to open up to women, she sat the entrance tests.

After passing the written examination, she failed the physical and sued the fire department on the grounds that it had been altered specifically to exclude women and bore no relation to what was needed to do the job. When she won, she left her job as an attorney and went to work as a firefighter, staying for 25 years and being promoted to captain. She attended on 9/11 and has also founded United Women Firefighters.