Weld, Lydia G., 1878-1962
- Existence: 1878 - 1962
Lydia Gould Weld, 1878 - 1962, was born in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts. She attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) from 1898 to 1903 and earned the S.B. in Course XIII, Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering. She was the first woman to earn an engineering degree from MIT.
Weld worked in the engineering division of the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company from 1903 until 1917, when she resigned due to illness. She managed a ranch with her brother in Antelope Valley, California, from 1918 to 1933, before retiring to Carmel. After World War II began, she came out of retirement to work as a senior draftsman at Moore's Dry Dock Company in Oakland. She retired to Carmel once again in 1945, where she remained until the late 1950s, when she moved to San Francisco.
The following obituary and tribute published in 1962 in the MIT alumni magazine, Technology Review, provides further details about her life and achievements.
Lydia G. Weld, Course XIII, died in San Francisco on January 1. She was the first woman to receive a degree from the Department of Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering and one of the first women to receive an engineering degree from any school in the United States.
She started her professional career in 1903 with the Newport News Shipbuilding Company where she was one of five "charge men" under the chief draftsman, Engine Division. It was the duty of the division which she headed to get out finished plans of all machinery as installed in all naval ships. This required a lot of tracing and checking on the ships and as time went on the work increased in volume and the number of workers in her division rose.
She found the work interesting and the company good to work for. With the approach of World War I, the yard activity greatly increased and the work became more strenuous. Time was the essence of the contract and work went along at full speed. The winter of 1917 was a terrible one; she became a victim of tonsilitis and sore throat and had to quit.
In January, 1918, after a stay in a hospital in Connecticut near her sister, she went West and began the development of her brother's 320-acre ranch in Antelope Valley, 80 miles from Los Angeles. She had been there but four months when she was asked to go to San Francisco to help set up the offices of the Emergency Fleet Corporation on the West Coast. After devoting two months to getting the office started, she returned to the range and operated it from 1918 to 1933.
She applied herself to ranching with the same vigor she had shown in shipbuilding, cleared the land of sagebrush, drove wells, and got the land into alfalfa. That the ranch prospered is shown by the fact that she gathered in some 204 prize ribbons in such varied lines as fruit, grains, poultry, and animals. At the same time she took an interest in the community affairs such as the Farm Bureau, school board, etc.
When the ranch was sold in 1933 she retired to Carmel and built a house overlooking the Pacific on land which she had purchased some years earlier. Here she got into community life, joined the League of Women Voters and became a member of the Advisory Committee to the County Zoning Committee.
When the second World War came she sought to do her part, was advised to take a job in the shipyards, and became a senior draftsman, Engine Division, Moore's Dry Dock Company, Oakland. After 30 months she again retired to Carmel. She remained active there in local affairs until about three years ago when she moved to San Francisco where she had many friends. There she lived where she could see her beloved ships passing in and out the Golden Gate and when she wished, with the aid of binoculars, could identify by the funnel markings the line to which they belonged.
She was an ardent baseball fan and stamp collector. Miss Weld was a member of the American Society of Engineers and the Society of Women Engineers. She leaves many nephews and nieces. Commital services were held in Boston, January 27.