Lydia Weld (1878 – 1962) was the first woman to receive a degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s engineering school in naval architecture and marine engineering in 1903. After graduation, she went on to work as a draftsman in the Newport News Dry Dock and Ship Building Company, finalizing plans of all machinery that would be installed on naval ships. She stayed there until health problems forced her to retire during World War I.
After her retirement from the Newport News Dry Dock and Ship Building Company, she moved to the Antelope Valley to stay at and tend to her brother’s ranch on Avenue H and 90th Street West. To prepare herself for this, she took classes at the University of California, Davis, to learn the fundamental skills of California ranching. From 1915 to 1933, the Weld ranch was known for its high-quality alfalfa, pears, sheep, poultry, and hogs. Due to their success, it was known as an oasis within the desert.
Lydia was also highly engaged in the local community, serving as the first female board trustee, and later president, of the Antelope Valley Joint Union High School District in 1923. She also worked hard to improve the local grammar schools.
In addition to her involvement with the local school district, Weld became director of the Los Angeles County Farm Bureau and president of the Lancaster Woman’s Club.
She also spent some of her free time writing scientific articles concerning the Antelope Valley’s various birds, helping her neighbors, and rescuing stray lambs.
"Gurba, Norma H. Legendary Locals of the Antelope Valley. Arcadia, 2013.
Photo courtesy of MOAH Collections"