At 100 years old, Betty Reid Soskin is the oldest National Park Ranger serving in the United States. A civil rights activist, musician, pioneering businesswoman, and Hall of Femme honoree, Betty’s work has brought Black voices to the forefront of history.
After founding one of the first Black-ownded record stores in the Bay Area in 1945, Betty used her life-long passion of songwriting to help stir up the civil rights movement. Writing songs like “Your Hand in Mine,” which was performed in 2018 by the Oakland Symphony and Chorus, was just one way Betty used her talents to bring these voices forward, before her music and performance career expanded during the sixties.
Betty’s career as a Park Ranger began after she attended a presentation on the development of the Rosie the Riveter and the World War II Home Front National Historical Park. Betty claimed that she had a love-hate relationship with Rosie after that visit: the lack of Black stories told in the creation of the park needed to change and Betty was going to be the one to do it. She knew first-hand the stories of women who worked in wartime, experiencing segregation and discrimination. Betty believed these stories should be included in the park's historical documentation.
Betty joined the National Park Service as a ranger in 2004, with the mission of sharing the experiences of Black women during World War II. Betty’s passion has changed the lives of many park attendees. President Barack Obama presented her with a presidential commemorative coin at the National Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony in 2015 and she was later honored with entry into the Congressional Record. Among her many notable awards, Glamour Magazine named Betty “Woman of the Year” in 2018.
An inspiration to all, Betty has successfully shared the stories of women whose voices have been hushed by history. She continues to weave music, storytelling, activism, and history together even to this day.