America’s oldest active park ranger wears her uniform at all times to inspire young women of color. The National Park Service recognized Betty Reid Soskin as part of Women’s History Month in 2015. The 93-year old woman helped to develop the Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park where she now works.
The great-granddaughter of a slave had the opportunity to work as a file clerk in a union auxiliary in 1942 at age 20. Since job opportunities for black women at the time were primarily limited to domestic work or agriculture, her job “was a step up” for a woman in that time period.
Media outlets picked up on the story of this amazing woman who started working as a park ranger at 85 years old, and she was recently profiled on The Today Show.
Reid Soskin’s park tours are booked two months out, because of how well she tells the stories of the women who worked building cargo ships at the Richmond Shipyards during WWII. She leads a tour describing “Untold Stories and Lost Conversations” to tell the stories of the female workers.
These workers performed feats that have never been equaled. Both women and men worked at these four shipyards located near San Francisco. The workers at these shipyards built 747 ships during the war, and on average, each ship was completed in less time and at a quarter of the cost of other shipyards.
The tremendous progress of the workers was partly due to the innovation of applying mass assembly line techniques that enabled workers with relatively little training to weld the pieces together. This was a great opportunity for many of the workers and was the first paying job for a number of them.
Fortunately the contributions of these groundbreaking women and men have not been lost thanks to the efforts of Betty Reid Soskin and her colleagues at the National Park Service.