Mary Golda Ross: First Native American Female Engineer

Mary Golda Ross was a pioneer in the field of aeronautical engineering. She was the first Native American female engineer who dedicated her life to creating an impressive legacy and paved the way for women everywhere.


Photo courtesy of RUSO.

Childhood and Education

Mary Golda Ross was born in Oklahoma, and she was a proud Cherokee. Her father was a judge of the Cherokee Nation, and he always encouraged her to study science and mathematics. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in mathematics from Northeastern State Teachers College in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, and a Master’s degree in mathematics from Colorado State College of Education in Greeley, Colorado.


Career and Accomplishments

Mary’s engineering career began during World War II when she worked as a mathematician for Lockheed Martin, an aerospace manufacturer in Burbank, California. During her 40-year tenure at Lockheed, she contributed to a number of groundbreaking projects, most notably the design and development of the Agena rocket, which was used as a target vehicle and for launching satellites. She was also instrumental in the development of the Polaris missile, which could be fired from submarines and played a critical role in the Cold War.


Legacy and Recognition

Mary Golda Ross was not only a talented engineer, but she was also a trailblazer for women and minority engineers. She knew firsthand what it was like to face discrimination in the industry, but she never let that get in the way of her success.

Throughout her illustrious career, Mary received several accolades and recognitions, including the Society of Women Engineers Achievement Award, which she was awarded in 1982. In 2018, she was posthumously inducted into the International Air and Space Hall of Fame at the San Diego Air & Space Museum.


Importance For Women in Engineering

Mary Golda Ross’s contributions to the aerospace industry cannot be overstated. But it’s her legacy as a female engineer that serves as an inspiration to women everywhere. Her story demonstrates that women are just as capable as men in the engineering field and that gender is not a barrier to success. At a time when women engineers were a rarity, Mary paved the way for a more diverse and inclusive industry.


Mary Golda Ross was not just the first Native American female engineer; she was a highly accomplished engineer whose contributions ranged from rocket design to missile development. Her legacy is an inspiration to all of us, especially women in the engineering field. She showed us that regardless of who you are, you can accomplish great things as long as you are determined to succeed. Mary’s incredible achievements continue to inspire students in STEM to break barriers, persevere, and achieve success.