Item no. 30016
New York
Occupation: Public employees
Collection: NYU Tamiment Library

Brenda Berkman: Plaintiff in FDNY Lawsuit 

Brenda Berkman, pictured in her office, filed a class-action sex discrimination complaint against the FDNY after grueling and unfair physical tests were created that effectively allowed the Academy to continue to discriminate against applicants based upon gender. After not one of the ninety women who applied to join the force was able to pass the physical examination, Berkman took the issue to court.  

As her case went on for almost five years, Berkman, pictured here circa 1982, began to study and practice law after passing the bar exam.   Overall, neither the media nor the male firefighters showed much sympathy for Berkman and the other women in her position.

Learn more about the story in the LaborArts' exhibit- Women Firefighters in New York City.

See LaborArts' exhibit Sisters in the Brotherhoods to read more about women in the blue collar workforce. 

Read more about gender discrimination within the FDNY and listen to oral herstories of women working in male-dominated industries and the sexism they face in the workplace at Talking History's piece by Jane LaTour, Sisters in the Brotherhoods.

Excerpts from LaTour's book have been featured in LaborArt's exhibit Sisters in the Brotherhoods.   

Problems of gender bias in the FDNY are very much a reality today.  Read about a gender bias lawsuit that occured in 2013 in this New York Times article.

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