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Strength & Stamina: Women in the Fire Department - Home
Early Years: 1883-1915
Fully Manned: 1915-1960
A Man Among Men: 1960-1975
Minority Recruitment and Women
Development of a Pre-Recruit Program
The First Woman Firefighter in Seattle
Early Discrimination
The End of the Pre-Recruit Program
Pregnancy and Disability
Equal Terms?
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Strength & Stamina: Women in the Fire Department

The First Woman Firefighter in Seattle

Bonnie Beers
Bonnie Beers

The pre-recruit training program focused on strength training, especially upper body and leg muscles. The program also included study of technical subjects including manipulative tasks and mechanical background, knowledge often included in Industrial Arts classes for boys at the junior high and high school levels.

Three of the five women who resigned from the 1976 recruit class were hired in January 1977 for the first female firefighter pre-recruit class. By mid-March, two of the three women had resigned, one due to injury. The third was Barbara (Bonnie) Beers. She continued in one-to-one instruction in technical training and did her physical training independently.

Bonnie Beers
Bonnie Beers

Because there was not another female pre-recruit training in 1977, Beers entered the minority male pre-recruit training in June 1977. She finished that successfully and went into the recruit class in December, entering a combat company in January 1978. The 5'9", 160-pound Beers had been a basketball player for the University of Washington. In an interview with The New York Times, Beers cited the physical rigor, as well as the monetary benefits and sense of personal accomplishment, as her challenges and rewards. She also stressed the psychological burden of being the first woman firefighter in the Department: "I get sick of the battering from every new person I meet. Having to explain and prove myself is wearing." Beers knew the men did not want her around. "They accept it. But, in general, they'd rather not have us around, rather not have to deal with it. I don't want to give the impression that I'm hated. But I'm not loved either."

Bonnie Beers
Bonnie Beers

The Fire Department called on Beers to help out with incoming female recruits and to provide input for the pre-recruit program. In 1982, Fire Chief Robert Swartout promoted her to Lieutenant over men with higher scores. "The exam cannot be the only criterion," he said. However, later in her career Beers felt she was passed over for promotions she deserved.

recruit class
Recruit class

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