Mary Golda Ross was a well-known aerospace engineer and mathematician. She is now being honored with a new statue dedicated to her achievements and services in the STEM sector.
They unveiled the statue on International Day of Women and Girls in Science, February 11, as part of a collaboration with Harper’s Bazaar, OLAY, at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum to celebrate women in STEM.
The statue will be exhibited at the Oklahoma First Americans Museum, where Mary grew up. The addition to the museum will honor Mary, a Cherokee Nation member, and inspire future generations of children to achieve their ambitions. However, many of Mary’s achievements have gone unnoticed for too long.
Mary was born in Oklahoma in 1908 and pursued mathematics at Northeastern State Teacher’s College before moving on to Colorado State College of Education to earn her master’s degree. She hailed from a pioneering family.
As per the Smithsonian, her great-great-grandfather, John Ross, was the Cherokee Nation’s longest-serving chief and battled to safeguard the nation from arriving white immigrants.
She worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs and a Native American boarding school. Lockheed Aircraft Corporation hired her in 1942 as a mathematician amid World War II. This was a “major military facility during the war.”
According to the Smithsonian, Mary worked on the P-38 Lightning fighter plane. Subsequently, she became the sole woman on the first staff at Lockheed’s Skunk Works, the firm’s “then-top-secret think tank.”
Though most of her aerospace research is classified, she worked on the P-38 fighter jet, ballistic missiles, and the Agena rocket utilized in NASA’s Gemini human spaceflight program throughout her time there. In the end, the Gemini mission aided NASA in preparing for the Apollo moon landings.
Mary also contributed to “preliminary design conceptions for interplanetary space travel, manned and unmanned earth-orbiting flights, the initial studies of orbiting satellites for defense and civilian purposes,” according to a 1994 feature in the San Jose Mercury News.
Additionally, she’s a co-author of NASA’s Planetary Flight Handbook Vol. III, that addresses voyaging to Venus and Mars flight. Following her retirement, Mary was enthusiastic about motivating other young girls and Native American children to pursue careers in STEM.
Mary Golda Ross died in 2008 at the golden age of 99. She was a member of the Society of Women Engineers, which established a scholarship in tribute to her. You can go see Mary’s statue at the First Americans Museum in Oklahoma City starting February 23.
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