Google's latest Doodle: A Cherokee Engineer (that you should know about)

Mary Golda Ross painting at the National Museum of the American Indian

Erin Weldon

Even today the work of Mary Golda Ross remains a classified secret

Google revealed its latest Doodle featuring today, a portrait of a radiantly smiling woman. As the central point of focus, she sits within the sacred seven-sided star of the Cherokee Nation, surrounded by a blueprint of the Agena rocket. It’s floating far above planet Earth, a satellite and the stars.

The imagery only skims the surface of Mary Golda Ross’ multifaceted life as the first Native American female engineer.

The colors of the seven-sided star highlight the flag of the Cherokee Nation. Ross embraced her legacy as a member of the Cherokee Nation, which instilled in her the value of learning. She was born on August 9, 1908, in Parkhill, Oklahoma. Ross grew up with a love for math, earning both a Bachelor of Arts degree and a Master’s degree in mathematics. She then worked as a statistical clerk for the Bureau of Indian Affairs. She also taught math in her community.

In 1942, Ross joined Lockheed Aircraft. She was sent to UCLA to earn a degree in aeronautical engineering. While at Lockheed, she worked among a male-dominated field as the only female engineer on interplanetary space travel, including rocket missiles and satellites. She helped send a man to the moon, and joined a top-secret think-tank called Missiles Systems Division. Though much of her work today remains classified, for a woman in the 1940s, she led a nontraditional career path, proving to be a trailblazer for all women.

Perla Campos, Global Marketing lead for Doodles, is passionate about Ross. “Google is very interested in diversity and inclusion,” she said. “Do they have large positive impacts on people? Do they go beyond their profession? I think Mary is a perfect example of that.”

Campos submitted the idea during the annual Doodle review process and worked with the artist, her family, the Google American Indian Network, the Society of Women Engineers, to bring the Ross to life. “We like to work with those groups to make sure we’re giving extra care to these topics that we may not know too much about,” Campos said. “They help us with important feedback ... to make sure we really have something authentic.”

Ross is an inspiration as the first Native American female engineer. Her extraordinary career path exemplifies what can be done. She is an example to women today. Instead of following, she found her calling, and her heart guided the way.

This Doodle is important because it shows a successful route for young Native American students who might explore science and engineering.

Ross is a direct descendent of John Ross, the chief of the Cherokee Nation, who led his people throughout the first half of the 19th century.

She was also one of the first, if not the first, Native American to be on the game show, “What’s my line?” The contestants wanted additional questions but were told sorry, what Ross knows is classified and she can’t talk about it.

For fun: Watch Mary Golda Ross on "What's My Line?"