Betty Reid Soskin belonged to segregated lodge
BOILERMAKERS ATTENDING a labor-sponsored dinner in the San Francisco Bay area September 19, took the stage to honor Betty Reid Soskin, 93, for her Home Front support during World Ward II and her current work at the Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park and Museum in Richmond, Calif. Soskin is the oldest full-time National Park Ranger in the United States.
The dinner was sponsored by the Central Labor Council of Contra Costa County and the Contra Costa Building and Construction Trades Council.
“Rosie the Riveter” was a fictional character of the era that symbolized women who entered the workforce in support of the war effort.
IVP J. Tom Baca, Secretary-Treasurer of the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California, praised Soskin for her work at the museum and her “dedication to preserving a transformative chapter in U.S. history for women and people of color.”
During the war, Soskin was employed as a clerk for the sprawling Kaiser Shipyards in Richmond, where thousands of women helped build more than 700 Liberty and Victory ships. She belonged to Boilermakers Auxiliary Local 36, a lodge for non-white members. During the 1940s, segregation was still prevalent in many areas of American culture, and the Civil Rights Movement was still several decades away.
IVP Baca, a member of Local 549 (Pittsburg, Calif.), was joined onstage by other lodge members as awards were presented to Soskin. She received a framed photo of black “Rosies” with Liberty ships in the background and a lighted lead crystal glass cube containing an image of welding stinger, mounted on a birdseye maple base. Two other honorees shared the limelight with Soskin. Rep. George Miller, an ardent champion of labor who is retiring at the end of his current term, received accolades and gifts from council members. The Boilermakers presented him with an honorary membership card crafted in metal. IVP Baca also performed the honors of introducing the event’s Labor Leader of the Year, Mike Hernandez of UA Local 342.
Awards presented to Soskin and Rep. Miller were arranged through the Boilermakers History Preservation Department.