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The Today Show recently profiled Betty Reid Soskin, who at 93 is the oldest active ranger in the National Park Service. Reid Soskin began her career with NPS at the age of 85, and is assigned to the Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park in Richmond, California.

Reid Soskin moved to Oakland from New Orleans in 1927, after a hurricane and flood drove her family from their home there.

According to the NPS, which highlighted Reid Soskin during Women’s History Month this year, Reid Soskin is a longtime activist and the great-granddaughter of a slave who rarely appears in public without her uniform.

The Department Of The Interior shares some incredible quotes directly from Reid Soskin:

In 1942 I was a 20-year-old file clerk in a Jim Crow segregated union auxiliary — Boilermakers Auxiliary 36. Labor unions were not yet racially integrated and wouldn’t be for another decade, so the unions created all-black unions for workers. When I graduated from high school as a young woman of color, my chances for employment were limited to two — working in agriculture or as a domestic servant. My parents were part of the service workers’ generation. My elder sister worked the first five years of her marriage as half of a domestic team; her husband was a chauffeur, and she was a housekeeper for a white family. Because they lived in, they could save every penny toward the purchase of their first home. This was the pathway into the middle class for black folks. I share that story to show that my job as a clerk in a Jim Crow union hall was a step up; the equivalent of today’s young woman of color being the first in her family to enter college.

Why she is rarely seen without her Park Ranger Uniform…

Yes, I do wear my uniform at all times; because when I’m on the streets or on an escalator or elevator, I am making every little girl of color aware of a career choice she may not have known she had. That’s important. The pride is evident in their eyes, and the opportunities get announced very subtly to those who’ve lived outside the circle of full acceptance.

Finally, the depth of history she has seen in her life…

We have witnessed so much of American history — slavery, reconstruction, World War I, Great Depression, World War II, Martin Luther King Jr., assassinations of the Kennedys, Vietnam, the Moon Landing, the Mars Probe, Sept. 11, Iraq, Iran — I can’t breathe. Add it to the fact that on Jan. 20, 2009, I witnessed — as a seated guest of my state representative, George Miller, with a snapshot of my great-grandmother in my breast pocket — the inauguration of our first African American president in the shadow of the Lincoln Memorial, a memorial for a president whose life was contemporary with my great-grandmother’s. I find it incredible that all of this, and more, happened within the lives of three women who interacted as adults. That’s how fast time goes.

Read Betty Soskin’s blog here.


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93-Year-Old Black Woman Is Oldest Park Ranger In America  was originally published on