173 - Betty Reid Soskin, Celebrating the 100th Birthday of the Oldest Park Ranger in America

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Betty Reid Soskin, the nation's oldest serving Park Ranger, works at the Rosie the Riveter Home Front World War II National Historical Park in Richmond, CA. Her tours and talks are hot ticket items. As a Black woman who worked in the segregated war effort, her perspective helps reveal a fuller, richer understanding of the World War II years on the home front as experienced by women and people of color.

In celebration of Betty Reid Soskin’s 100th year we’ve curated a kind of mix tape of Betty stories—stories gathered and preserved by producers and archivists over the years.

Betty was born September 22, 1921. Her Creole / Cajun family was from New Orleans and her great grandmother had been born into slavery in 1846. Betty grew up in Oakland in the 1920s and 30s, raised four children in the highly segregated Diablo Valley area where the family was subject to death threats. During WWII she works as a file clerk for Boilermakers Union A-36, a Jim Crow all black union auxiliary. She and her first husband, Mel Reid, owned one of the first Black record shops west of the Mississippi located in Berkeley. Betty is an activist, a singer, songwriter, poet musician. She was a Field Representative for California State Assembly women Dion Aroner and Lonnie Hancock.

Special thanks to: This is Love Podcast and creators Phoebe Judge and Lauren Spohrer; The San Francisco Public Library and Shawna Sherman of the African American Center of the San Francisco Main Library; and A Lifetime of Being Betty, a Little Village Foundation recording release produced by Mike Kappus. Thanks also to Betty’s son, musician and songwriter Bob Reid.

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