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The Daughters of Greatness breakfast series at the Muhammad Ali Center features prominent women engaged in social philanthropy, activism, and pursuits of justice. The stories and reflections they share are motivational to some people, transformative to others, and inspirational to all. The Ali Center periodically invites these local and international icons to share their stories with the Louisville community. The Daughters of Greatness series provides a place for dialogue and discussion on current issues of justice, community engagement, and social movements within the Louisville area and beyond.
This month's speaker is Captain Brenda Berkman. 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 Berkmans 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 Academys Executive Fire Officer program.
Since retirement from the FDNY, Capt. Berkmans 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.