Mary Golda Ross
Mary Golda Ross
I started with a firm foundation… and some qualities that came down from my Indian heritage. I had a great deal of curiosity, interest, willingness to study, to do research, and to learn, to try out new ideas, and, most of all, to work.
The first known Native American female engineer and the first female engineer in the history of Lockheed, Mary Golda Ross was born in the capital of the Cherokee Nation. She earned a degree in mathematics from Northeastern State Teacher’s College and graduated from Colorado State Teachers College with her master’s.
Like many, in 1942 Ross answered the call of World War II and joined Lockheed Aircraft Corporation as a mathematical research assistant. As part of the Advanced Development Projects group she worked to improve the design of the P-38 Lightning, a fighter plane used by the United States Army Air Forces. The study of how aircraft respond to aerodynamic forces was her specialty. A registered professional engineer following advanced coursework in aeronautical engineering, as the Cold War emerged she joined Lockheed’s Missiles and Space Company. There Ross worked on many projects, including the submarine-launched Polaris missile and the Agena launch vehicle which carried military, intelligence, and civilian payloads to space. Because much of her work is still classified, the full impact of her contributions remains unknown.
A lifelong advocate for women and Native people in engineering, she was a charter member of the Los Angeles chapter of the Society of Women Engineers and was active in the American Indian Science and Engineering Society. Ross was instrumental in the creation of and is featured in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian and was featured on the Native American one-dollar coin more than a decade following her passing.
In 1950, Ross became Lockheed Aircraft Corporation’s first woman engineer.
Great-great granddaughter of Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation John Ross, Mary Golda Ross was raised in Park Hill, Oklahoma.