Mary Golda Ross, 1st Female & Native American at Lockheed Aircraft Corporation
Mary G. Ross was the great-great granddaughter of the longest-serving chief of the Cherokee nation who fought to protect their land from white settlers and was ultimately forced to lead his people down the Trail of Tears. During Ross’s youth, her family downplayed her ethnic origin, but she later fully recognized and celebrated it.
After Ross earned a math degree from Northeastern State College, she became a statistician for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and later did the same at a Native American boarding school in New Mexico. After receiving her master’s degree, she joined the Lockheed Aircraft Corporation and helped troubleshoot a fighter plane that came close to breaking the sound barrier. After World War II, Lockheed sent her to UCLA, where she earned a classification in aeronautical engineering. Ross was recruited Lockheed’s Skunk Works, a top-secret research and development group set on innovation, where she was the only female engineer.
Ross helped write NASA’s Planetary Flight Book, the comprehensive guide to space travel. Much of her work was and still is classified. Additionally, she helped develop the rocket technology that launched the United States into space.
In 1992, she was inducted into the Silicon Valley Engineering Council’s Hall of Fame.