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NPS ranger Betty Reid Soskin turns 100

Betty Reid Soskin officially became a National Park Service ranger in 2004. She works at the Rosie the Riveter/WWII Home Front National Historic Park.
Credit: NPS
Ranger Betty Reid Soskin at the Rosie The Riveter Visitor Center.

WASHINGTON — The National Park Service's oldest active ranger Betty Reid Soskin is celebrating her 100th birthday on Wednesday. 

Soskin, who was born in Detroit, Michigan on September 22, 1921, works at the Rosie the Riveter/WWII Home Front National Historical Park in Richmond, California.

Her career with the National Park Service began after she attended a presentation in 2000 to officially develop the national park where she is currently based. During the meeting, she said she had a "love-hate relationship” with Rosie, according to the New York Times. She explained that she believes the cultural icon only tells a white women's story.

Soskin officially became a ranger in 2004, when she was in her 80s.

Before becoming a park ranger, she was a civil rights activist, musician, and pioneering businesswoman with a wealth of knowledge, the National Parks Service explained in a profile earlier this year

Soskin had already accomplished a lot before joining the NPS. She founded one of the first Black-owned record stores in the California Bay Area, wrote the song  “Your Hand In Mine” about civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer and she worked for the United States Air Force in 1942. The NPS said she left the military after she learned that she was only employed because "her superiors believed she was white."

"Over the past decade and a half, Ranger Betty has shared her experiences as well as the efforts and sacrifices of women from diverse backgrounds living and working on the World War II home front," the National Park Service said in an Instagram post on Wednesday to celebrate her centennial birthday.

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In 2015, then-President Barack Obama awarded Soskin with a presidential commemorative coin during the National Christmas tree lighting. She was also named one of the "Women of the Year" by Glamour Magazine in 2018.

To celebrate her birthday month, the Rosie the Riveter/WWII Home Front National Historic Park announced it will be giving out special virtual and limited edition ink stamps to honor Soskin.

“Without Betty’s influence, we probably would not have told various previously marginalized stories in as much depth,” Park Superintendent Tom Leatherman told the New York Times about Soskin. "Betty has an amazing ability to share her own story in a really personal and vulnerable way — not so people know more about her, but so they understand that they too have a story."

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