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Lydia G. Weld papers

 Collection — Box: 1
Identifier: MC-0570

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Lydia G. Weld papers contain mostly correspondence to and from Lydia Weld, who is also addressed by her family nickname, Rose.

The bulk of these letters, which span from her time away at school in the 1890s to her retirement in the 1950s, can be found in the folders titled "Letters to and from Aunt Rose." Correspondence in these folders is mostly personal, sent to and by family and friends around the world. Additional personal correspondence is located in other folders, as it had been separated that way by Weld's family. A separate folder of condolence letters sent to her family includes memories of and reflections on Weld, as well as confirmation of her professional affiliations.

Also included is a folder of correspondence from the assistant naval architect at the Electric Boat Company of Groton, Connecticut, who wrote to Weld about hiring a woman to be in charge of the company's tracing department. These letters are especially interesting because they provide a glimpse into what it was like to work for a company that designed ships and submarines during World War I.

One highlight of this collection is a letter Weld wrote to the MIT Women's Association in the mid-1950s, which summarizes her memories of MIT and the significance of her career. Another highlight is a letter she wrote to "Mrs. Richards" in 1907. Mrs. Richards was Ellen Swallow Richards, the first female graduate of MIT.

In addition to correspondence, this collection contains news clippings, photographs, photocopies of Weld's completed forms for the MIT Women's Association, and a document titled "Memories of Lydia Gould Weld," written by her niece, Anna Weld Dice.


  • circa 1890-1966


Access note

This collection is open.

Intellectual Property Rights

Access to collections in the Department of Distinctive Collections is not authorization to publish. Separate written application for permission to publish must be made to Distinctive Collections. Copyright of some items in this collection may be held by respective creators, not by the donor of the collection.


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.


0.3 Cubic Feet (1 manuscript box)

Language of Materials



Materials are stored off-site. Advance notice is required for use.

Source of Acquisition

Materials were given to the Department of Distinctive Collections (formerly the Institute Archives and Special Collections) by Weld Coxe in 2002.

Two additional letters, as well as a folder of background information, was donated by the MIT Museum. See the collection control file for more information.


  • Weld, Lydia G. "Progressive speed trial of the tug boat, Juno." S.B. Thesis, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1903.
  • Bix, Amy Sue. Girls Coming to Tech!: A History of American Engineering Education for Women. Cambridge, Mass.: The MIT Press, 2014.
  • Gurba, Norma. Legendary Locals of the Antelope Valley. Mount Pleasant, S.C.: Arcadia Publishing, 2013.
Guide to the Papers of Lydia G. Weld
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Libraries. Department of Distinctive Collections Repository

Massachusetts Institute of Technology Libraries
Building 14N-118
77 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge MA 02139-4307 US