On March 31, 2022, 100-year-old Betty Reid Soskin wore her National Park Service ranger flat hat for the last time.
Soskin, who was the oldest active ranger before retiring, began working for the NPS at 84 years old. She started with a temporary position after working with the City of Richmond and the NPS on the plans for the Rosie the Riveter/WWII Home Front National Historical Park, according to a news release. She helped the NPS receive a grant funded by PG&E to tell untold stories of African Americans on the Home Front during WWII. She became a permanent employee in 2011 — at age 89.
“Betty has made a profound impact on the National Park Service and the way we carry out our mission,” said NPS Director Chuck Sams in the press release. “I am grateful for her lifelong dedication to sharing her story and wish her all the best in retirement. Her efforts 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. Congratulations, Betty!”
Soskin, who grew up in a Black, Cajun-Creole family, has spent the last 16 years using her personal experiences to share the efforts of women of color, particularly Black women, who participated in the World War II Home Front. During World War II, she worked in a segregated Union hall, Boilermaker’s A-36, as a file clerk. Soskin spent her last day at the park providing an interpretive program to the public and visiting with coworkers at the park she helped make a reality.
“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. “Being a primary source in the sharing of that history – my history – and giving shape to a new national park has been exciting and fulfilling. It has proven to bring meaning to my final years.”
Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park will celebrate Betty’s retirement on Saturday, April 16 in Richmond, California.