September 22, 2021
Happy 100th to Park Ranger Betty Reid Soskin
Betty Reid Soskin turns 100 years old today. It won’t surprise you to learn, if indeed you didn’t know already, that she’s the oldest ranger in the National Park Service. She has slowed down recently, conducting most of her work and tours over Zoom like many of us. But she’s still on the force, as it were, as the expert ranger presiding over the Rosie the Riveter WWII Homefront National Historic Park, in Richmond, Calif.
Soskin didn’t become a ranger until she was in her 80s. She worked for a politician who asked her to help with planning for the Rosie the Riveter park, and Soskin ended up championing a movement to open the historical narrative to women of color who aided the war effort, albeit in segregated units (Soskin was a file clerk in WWII). Gradually, she assumed more and more importance to the park, eventually attaining the rank of ranger and giving popular tours.
From a New York Times column celebrating her legacy today:
Ms. Soskin has often spoken of the power of putting on the park ranger uniform — today, less than seven percent of National Park Service personnel are Black — and the message that seeing her in it sends to little girls of color, and others who might not see the national parks as inclusive of them.
There are many interview clips of Soskin floating around Youtube, but you can also listen to her wizened voice narrating a recent The North Face commercial, below.
Happy Birthday Betty!