Our national parks are a place for all ages, young and old. No single person embodies that sentiment quite as well as Betty Reid Soskin, the oldest active ranger in the National Park Service who retired recently at the age of 100.
An interpretive ranger at Rosie the Riveter/WWII Home Front National Historic Park located in Richmond, CA, Soskin used her formidable and rich life experience to share the stories of the efforts of women from diverse backgrounds who worked, often unseen and unheralded, on behalf of the war effort. Her programs, says a recent National Park Service news release marking her retirement, “have illuminated the histories of African Americans and other people of color, and … impacted the way the NPS conveys such history to audiences across the United States.”
Before joining the NPS, Soskin was a part of the development of this unique National Historic Park serving as a part of the scoping meetings to develop its general management plan and on a grant to begin to bring to light the previously untold stories of African Americans during the war effort on the Homefront. That work led to a seasonal position with the park at the age of 84, and to a permanent position in 2011. For the next decade or more, she lead countless insightful and memorable interpretive talks at the park and engaged the public in these important, previously untold stories.
“To be a part of helping to mark the place where that dramatic trajectory of my own life, combined with others of my generation, will influence the future by the footprints we’ve left behind has been incredible,” says Soskin.
“Betty has made a profound impact on the National Park Service and the way we carry out our mission,” said NPS Director Chuck Sams. “I am grateful for her lifelong dedication to sharing her story and wish her all the best in retirement. Congratulations, Betty!”
Fittingly, Soskin, who turned 100 in September of 2021, marked her final day of work at the park by presenting an interpretive program.
While Betty Soskin never visited the Apostle Islands, her example can be a shining light for all, rangers and park lovers alike. “Her efforts,” says NPS Director Chuck Sams, “remind us that we must seek out and give space for all perspectives so that we can tell a more full and inclusive history of our nation.”
To learn more about this amazing park ranger and to watch a video of one of her interpretive programs, visit the website of Rosie the Riveter/WWII Home Front National Historic Park at https://www.nps.gov/rori/learn/historyculture/betty-reid-soskin.htm
Photo: Ranger Betty Reid Soskin sits in front of the Rosie the Riveter Visitor Center.
NPS Photo/Luther Bailey