It’s been a hell of a career for Betty Reid Soskin. She retired as a National Park Service ranger last week at the age of 100. She was named California Legislature Woman of the Year in 1995, has a Bay Area middle school named for her, and in 2015, she met and introduced President Barack Obama at the White House’s Christmas tree lighting ceremony. For years she’s ran tours at the Rosie the Riveter/WWII Home Front National Historical Park in Richmond, Calif. “I’ve lived lots and lots of lives,” she told an interviewer in 2014.
Soskin, or Ranger Betty, as colleagues called her, was an invaluable voice speaking foe the Black experience in WWII—a contrast to Rosie the Riveter, the white, bandana-wearing heroine of the wartime manufacturing sector.
“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,” said Soskin in a prepared statement from the NPS.
Soskin was instrumental in bringing the Rosie the Riveter monument to Richmond, a port city in the Bay Area that was once a shipbuilding hub. She was so respected by the NPS brass that they brought her on board in a temporary role when she was 84 years old, then elevated her to full-time ranger status.
A celebration of her career will be held at the historical center on April 16.