Cherokee engineer on 2019 Native American $1 coin
Release of the design of the 2019 Native American dollar coin featuring Cherokee female engineer Mary Golda Ross on the reverse side. COURTESY
WASHINGTON – The United States Mint unveiled the reverse design of the 2019 Native American dollar coin in the 2018 winter issue of National Museum of the American Indian’s quarterly magazine.
The 2019 coin design celebrates American Indians in the Space Program.
The design depicts Cherokee engineer Mary Golda Ross writing calculations, while in the background, an Atlas-Agena rocket launches into space with an equation inscribed in its cloud and an astronaut, symbolizing Native American astronauts, spacewalks above amid a group of stars indicating outer space.
Inscriptions in the coin include “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA” and a $1 symbol.
Mint Artistic Infusion program designer Emily Damstra created the design and it is sculpted by Mint sculptor-engraver Joseph Menna.
The obverse side of the coin will continue to feature central figure Sacagawea carrying her infant son Jean Baptiste.
Ross was one of 40 founding engineers at the renowned and highly secretive Skunk Works project at Lockheed Corporation and was the first known Native American female engineer.
She was born in Park Hill, Oklahoma, in 1908 to William Wallace and Mary Henrietta Ross and was the great-granddaughter of former Cherokee Nation Chief John Ross. She died in 2008 at 99 years old.
Ross attended Northeastern State Teacher’s College in Tahlequah where she earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics in 1928 and taught for nine years thereafter in rural Oklahoma schools.
Ross was hired as a mathematician by Lockheed in 1942 and began working on the effects of pressure on the Lockheed P-38 Lightning airplane. She helped solve numerous design issues involved with high-speed flight and aero-elasticity.
In 1952, she joined Lockheed’s Advanced Development Program for the top-secret Skunk Works project where she worked on design concepts for interplanetary space travel, manned and unmanned earth-orbiting flights and early studies of orbiting satellites for defense and civilian purposes. Her works also included, as depicted on the coin design, the Agena rocket project and design concepts for flyby missions to Venus and Mars.
By the late 1960s, Golda Ross became a senior advanced systems staff engineer and worked on the Polaris reentry vehicle and Trident missiles.
The Native American $1 Coin program is authorized by Public Law 110-82 to recognize contributions made by tribes and individuals of Native people to the history and development of the U.S. The public law mandates a reverse design be issued at a rate of once a year to include an image emblematic of one important Native American individual or contribution.