Wednesday, Jan 21, 2009
Betty Reid Soskin, 87, a former âRosie the Riveter,â was a guest of Congressman George Miller at yesterdayâs inauguration in Washington, D.C.
Soskin is a uniformed National Park Service ranger who works at Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park. She is a former âRosie,â having served in an auxiliary Union Hall, created to serve African American shipyard workers (as the unions were segregated). The Kaiser shipyards constructed 747 Liberty and Victory ships during the war years, one of the stories of this new NPS area.
âThe nation is finally ready for the long lost conversations and untold stories,â Soskin said, âand after many years of preparatory experience in public service, Iâm now a National Park Service rangerâ¦ Iâm helping shape a new urban national parkâ¦ This park supports the telling of the more recent dramatic chapters in the story of how we arrived at this memorable Inaugurationâ¦â
In addition to the inaugural event, she plans on a tour of the WWII Memorial and a visit to the newly reopened Smithsonian Museum of American History to see exhibits on Rosie the Riveter, the WWII Home Front and Japanese American Internment.
Rosie the Riveter / World War II National Historical Park captures the untold stories of the everyday heroes who worked on the home front during the war and how the nation mobilized its spirit and industrial might. The NPS does not own any of the buildings or land that make up this park. Instead, the NPS is working with the city of Richmond, other owners of sites, and the community to protect the scattered resources of this park. These include the Rosie the Riveter Memorial, the Ford Assembly Building (future site of the parkâs visitor center), the first daycare centers, the Kaiser Field Hospital, Shipyard #3, and sites along the waterfront. Soskin is one of rangers who provides tours, telling her personal WWII story and encouraging others to contribute their stories to the parkâs collection of oral histories.
Soskin has seen the population of Richmond swell from 24,000 before WWII to over 100,000 by the end of the war, and she has also experienced the upheaval and social changes subsequent to the war. She maintains a blog (http://cbreaux.blogspot.com) which details her personal history of over 60 years â dealing with issues of race and segregation; changes throughout the greater Bay Area from the boom time of war through loss of industries, jobs and opportunity for many post-war; and Richmondâs current renaissance as a leader in the emerging green economy and the site of the new national park.
She also has produced âOf Lost Conversations and Untold Stories,â a DVD she calls âdense with information on the African American storyâ and available on YouTube.com. She wrote and narrated this for the purpose of starting spirited conversations at public meetings for the NPS.