Betty Reid Soskin, America’s oldest active national park ranger and human rights champion, retired from service on March 31 after celebrating her 100th birthday in September, Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park has confirmed.
Soskin began working at the park as a consultant in 2000. At the time, she was the only African American in the planning sessions.
There, she revealed her tense relationship with Rosie the Riveter, who had become a symbol of white women’s -only- experiences during the war, so she introduced changes.
In 2011, Soskin joined the National Park Service as a permanent employee and became well-known for her park tours. Those included a lot of personal stories and were sell out weeks or even months in advance.
And she had a lot to tell. In her youth, she experienced segregation, worked as a wartime office worker, and became involved in the civil rights movement, both with the Black Panthers and in the Antiwar Movement.
In 1942, she also worked for the U.S. Air Force, but quit after learning that “she was employed only because her superiors believed she was white,” according to a Park Service biography.
During her time at the park and museum, she honored women who worked in factories during wartime.
“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,” she said.
Betty Reid Soskin was voted California Woman of the Year in 1995, and she was named Woman of the Year by Glamour Magazine in 2018.
After lighting the national christmas tree at the White House in 2015, Soskin was presented with a presidential coin by President Barack Obama.
Her golden years have not been not all joy, however. In June 2016, she was awakened in her home by a “robber” who struck her in the face repeatedly, took her out of her bedroom and beat her before fleeing with the coin and other valuables.
She returned to work as soon as she recovered.
“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. 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!”