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For 100 years, Ranger Betty made a difference

Words by Smiley Team

In March 2022, a very inspirational woman retired after years of supporting positive change in our world. 

Betty Reid Soskin, also known as Ranger Betty, retired after being the oldest National Park Service ranger for years. Her career was marked by the work she did to promote the stories of African American people and women of color who contributed to the home front effort during World War II.

“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 and announcement from the NPS.

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After joining the National Park Service in her 80s Soskin became a driving force in bringing Rosie the Riveter National Historical Park to the city of Richmond.

“If we don't know where we started, we have no conception of where we are or how we got here. Only if we go back and retrace our steps. And that's what the park became for me,” Soskin said during a speech at the Rosie the Riveter Visitor Education Center.

Her broader work at that park focused on the general history of WWII, often being credited with bringing light to a lot of the African American soldiers that went by the wayside during the war, using the backdrop of her own experiences with racism and segregation for perspective.

For context, Soskin’s grandmother was into slavery in 1846 and lived to be 102.

According to the National Park Service, Soskin also briefly worked for the United States Airforce during WWII but soon quit after she discovered that she was hired because they believed that she was white. 

“Betty has made a profound impact on the National Park Service and the way we carry out our mission,” says NPS Director Chuck Sams in the statement. “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.”

A celebration of Soskin and her work was held at the same National park that she helped found, on April 16.

Photo credit: NPS Photo/Luther Bailey

Inspired to act?

SUPPORT: Check out the US National Park service, and you can see Soskin’s park here. The parks do a lot of conservation work and help protect and promote history and nature. 

DONATE: You can donate to the Nature Conservancy – an environmental charity working to create a world where people and nature thrive. 

This article aligns with the following UN SDGs

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