Taking The Heat

The daring story of the first women firefighters of New York City
Year Released
Film Length(s)
53 mins


In 1982, one woman took on the New York City Fire Department in a landmark lawsuit - and won.

Featured review

A rare, honest, life-changing documentary about the hurt and honor of being a life-time pioneer... Every American could be strengthened by seeing this film.


In 1982, one woman took on the New York City Fire Department in a landmark lawsuit - and won. As a result, women could become firefighters for the first time. Of the few who joined, one woman was knifed, one was beaten up and several received death threats from male firefighters. "Someone had drained my air-tank, and I was in a burning building," recalls one woman firefighter. This is the captivating story of how these women survived over twenty years in a department that did not want them, told in their own words.Telecast nationally on the Emmy-winning series Independent Lens (PBS), the film explores a highly dramatic and emotional chapter in the struggle for gender equality in present-day America.


An eye-opening film... excellent for stimulating discussion on the on going struggles of women.
Nancy Lutkehaus
Chair, Gender Studies, USC
Taking the Heat is a great vehicle to engage law and public policy students in discussions about the difficulty of using law to effectuate change. All too often, the law school curriculum focuses on rights, as if a win is all that is required to secure institutional reform. Many schools don't even offer classes in remedies, ignoring the difficulty and conceptual challenges of actually enforcing judgments. Taking the Heat challenges students to think beyond the verdict or settlement, to grapple with how institutions change, how leadership transmits signals and how institutional culture evolves. It forces students to think critically about the skills lawyers or public policy-makers must bring to the table in order to secure lasting reform. By taking a long view, and focusing on the day to day challenges the women faced in the firehouses, the film will provoke a much more nuanced and searching examination of the role of the law, and lawyers, in leading (or pushing) social change. While right on the target for employment discrimination discussions in constitutional law or specialized courses, the film also could serve to focus discussion about the difficulty of implementing legal rights in courses on land use (with Kirp's Our Town, for example, the film could be used to focus on the limits of the law in integrating neighborhoods), or in courses on remedies or law and society. The film's sophisticated, even-handed and unflinchingly rigorous hard look at the aftermath of the legal victory make it ideal for the graduate classroom or upper level undergraduate courses.
Vicki Been
Elihu Root Professor of Law, NYU
Enlightening, unsettling... By the end of this film it is hard to avoid the cold, hard truth.
A compelling documentary about an important subjcect... Highly recommended.
Inspiring work.

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