Most Awe-Inspiring Park Ranger

Betty Reid Soskin

At 91, Richmond’s Betty Reid Soskin is the National Park Service’s oldest interpretive ranger, but that’s not her greatest accomplishment. Her tour of the Rosie the Riveter/WWII Home Front National Historic Park sheds light on the dramatic growth of racial minorities in Richmond during those years, drawing on her own experience working as a file clerk in a Jim Crow union hall at the Richmond shipyards in the early 1940s. She recounts how black workers were denied equal status in the auxiliary unions, but organized to develop leaders within their own ranks, and how several ships built and launched in the Kaiser shipyards were named for black visionaries, including the SS Harriet Tubman, the SS George Washington Carver, and the SS Toussaint Louverture. But Soskin doesn’t limit her work to the Rosie the Riveter park; when out of uniform, she attends local political meetings and public art unveilings, addresses labor conferences, and keeps up the most active blog and Facebook page of any nonagenarian around.

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