At age 97, Betty Reid Soskin is not only the oldest National Park Ranger, she's a powerful voice for the African-American wartime experience. When visitors come to Rosie the Riveter WWII Home Front National Historical Park, they are eager to find Betty and get a photo with this national treasure, who still works five days a week presenting her unique perspective on American history to packed theaters at the park. Before joining the National Park Service at the age of 85, Betty was an entrepreneur, singer-songwriter, community activist, and legislative representative, and also played an integral role in planning the park.
The WWII Home Front National Historical Park was founded in the year 2000 to honor the many heroes who worked on the home front to support the war. With a shortage of white male workers who were sent into service, the United States Government began to actively recruit women and, later, minorities to war industry jobs. "Rosie the Riveter" became an iconic symbol for the nearly six million women who entered the workforce during WWII.
The great granddaughter of slaves and a former file clerk for the Boilermakers Union A-36, a Jim Crow all-Black union auxiliary, Betty's life has been filled with challenges and painful moments, yet she remains hopeful that the next generation will benefit from the history lessons of those who paved the way for them. She first caught the attention of the public during the government shutdown of 2013, when she, as the oldest furloughed National Park Ranger, told the media that gridlocked legislators were wasting her precious time to do important work.
A team of MoFo lawyers from the San Francisco office has partnered with the Rosie the Riveter Trust—a nonprofit formed to support the national historical park—to ensure that Betty's important work is remembered through a documentary film by Carl Bidleman titled No Time to Waste. Partner Paul Jahn has been advising the Trust on IP and commercial issues relating to film production for some time. More recently, MoFo corporate associate Brittani Ojogho-Fields did a content clearance review on the film with the help of summer associates Reid Knabe and target=_blankManny Perez. Paul and Brittani also prepared an agreement with the Bay Area NBC affiliate to air the film on television, which received over 28,000 household views.
No Time to Waste explores the life of this legendary National Park Ranger, her reflections on her role in the park's planning, and her recollections of the African-American woman's experience working in a segregated environment while supporting the war effort. Betty recalls that often, she "was the only person in the room who had any reason to remember that ... what gets remembered is a function of who's in the room doing the remembering."
Brittani summarizes what working on this project has meant to her, stating "I am extremely honored to be working with the Trust and assisting in sharing the inspiring story of Betty's life and work with the world. Her lifelong commitment to social justice, even in the face of many obstacles, sets such a motivating example of how we all should dedicate ourselves to creating positive, lasting change in our own communities."
Originally published by Morrison Foerster, August 2020
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