Brenda Berkman retired on September 14, 2006 as a Captain in the New York City Fire Department after serving the City for twenty-five years. She was assigned to firehouses in Manhattan and Brooklyn. Capt. Berkman began her career in the fire service after winning the federal sex discrimination lawsuit she initiated that resulted in the hiring of New York City's first women firefighters. The documentary Taking the Heat, which chronicles Berkman’s struggle to integrate women into the FDNY, aired on PBS in 2006. She has also been profiled in several books and numerous articles, such as Women You Should Know and MAKERS. In 1996-97, Capt. Berkman served as a White House Fellow, the first professional firefighter to be awarded this prestigious leadership development fellowship in the history of the program. She has also led both local and national women firefighters’ organizations.
Berkman has a BA summa cum laude from St. Olaf College, an MA in American History from Indiana University, a JD from New York University and a MS in Fire Protection Management from the City University of New York. She is a graduate of the National Fire Academy’s Executive Fire Officer program.
Since retirement from the FDNY, Capt. Berkman’s passions have shifted to printmaking and volunteer work. She volunteers as a walking tour guide at the Tribute Center in New York City to honor her friends and colleagues who were lost on 9-11, and to help educate visitors.