photo of Brenda Berkman

Brenda Berkman

VP For Programs
Monumental Women

Brenda Berkman retired as a Captain in the New York City Fire Department after serving the City for twenty-five years. Brenda 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 other documentaries, several books and numerous articles. In 1996-97, Brenda served as a White House Fellow, the first professional firefighter to be awarded this leadership development fellowship. She has led both local and national women firefighters’ organizations and served on boards of several nonprofits. She is experienced at testifying before government organizations and conducting media and organizational briefings. Brenda has a Juris Doctor degree as well as Masters degrees in History and Emergency Management.

Since retirement from the FDNY, Brenda’s interests have shifted to volunteer work. She is a walking tour guide at the 9-11 Memorial in New York City to honor her friends and colleagues who were lost on 9-11. Berkman serves as the Vice President for Programs of the all-volunteer non-profit Monumental Women and spearheaded both the unveiling ceremony of the Women’s Rights Pioneers Monument in Central Park (unveiled August 26, 2020) and the Talking Statues app for the Monument as well as the New York City Women’s Rights History Trail.

Berkman is also a printmaker at NYC’s Art Students League and her work can be seen at

Programming descriptions are generated by participants and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of SXSW.

Events featuring Brenda Berkman
Events featuring Brenda Berkman