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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

Pregnancy and Disability

Carrie OliverCarol Solberg

Although the number of women firefighters increased in the 1980s, discriminatory practices did not disappear. In 1987, pregnancy became the focus of a discrimination suit when Carrie Oliver and Carol Solberg filed a lawsuit to collect disability benefits from the Seattle Fire Department Relief Association. They contended disability benefits should be available to them, just as they would be to other firefighters with temporary disabilities. Oliver and Solberg also argued they should be able to do desk work or other light duty jobs during pregnancy.

press release
Press release

The case was won and King County Superior Court Judge Heavey ruled in 1988 that the Relief Association illegally discriminated against pregnant firefighters by denying them disability payments. Everyone in the Department benefited however, when light duty subsequently became a possibility for all members of the Fire Department with temporary disabilities.

The case split the women in the Department; some thought it should never have been filed. The Seattle Chapter of the Association of Female Firefighters disbanded a few years later.

letter
Letter

An encouraging development within the Department was the promotion of several women firefighters. Bonnie Beers was promoted to Captain in 1992 and Battalion Chief in 1996. Molly Douce, hired in 1979, was promoted to Lieutenant in 1982, Captain in 1986, and Battalion Chief in 1992. Tamalyn Nigretto was hired in 1987 and promoted to Lieutenant in 1992, Captain in 1996 and Battalion Chief in 2000. Katie Maughan and Sue Rosenthal also were promoted to Captains.

The high numbers of women that entered the Department in the 1970s and 1980s were thinning out by the 1990s, however, and numbers of women entering were not as high. Discrimination charges had not run their course, either. In 1993, the City settled a sexual harassment suit with a female firefighter who had been on the force since 1983. Of 49 female firefighters who responded to a 1993 survey, 24 said they experienced some degree of sexual harassment.

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