America’s oldest full-time park ranger, Betty Reid Soskin, has been extremely upset at being forced to leave work because Republicans and Democrats cannot come to a budget agreement. She is among the 800,000 federal employees who are out of work without pay until a new budget is passed.
A worker at the Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park in Richmond, California, Soskin is extremely sensitive to the time she is losing, when she could be performing a job that keeps her motivated in her advanced age.
“At this stage of my career, I have a sense of urgency,” Soskin told the NBC Bay Area station. “This is my last decade, and I can’t afford to have anyone waste my time.”
The park ranger, who gives tours three days a week, and works in the administrative office two days, hopes that Congress will soon recognize the toll the shutdown is taking.
“There are times when I feel like the only grown-up in the room. It’s a little disconcerting to feel like no one’s in charge. That’s the feeling I have when I watch the news,” Soskin told AP. “There are not enough wiser heads in Washington to determine where we should go. That uncertainty is unnerving.”
Soskin feels that her experiences as a working black woman during World War II make her especially suited to giving tours at the Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front park. She hopes to get back to fulfilling a role that is meaningful to her — and society.
“During the war, a 20-year-old Soskin went to work as a clerk for Boilermakers 136, an all-black union,” The Daily Beast reports. “She never considered herself a Rosie, because the term was usually applied to female shipyard workers, who were predominantly white. But she maintains her experiences during that period of segregation are invaluable to history and she is anxious to share them.”
But, she was blocked from communicating as an instrument of living history after being furloughed on October 1. Soskin sees her contributions as a park ranger as critical to ensuring that the African-American experience of WW II is shared with the public.
“Ken Burns and Tom Brokaw covered WWII very well,” she told The Daily Beast, “but the back story, the real story of the home front—how America treated the African Americans and the American Japanese—is only beginning to be told.”
Soskin hopes to get back to telling that story as soon as she can, and is concerned that her finances will be strained by an extended period without a salary.
“The people in Washington better get their act together. How many ways can I say let me get back to work?”
Follow Alexis Garrett Stodghill on Twitter at @lexisb.