Golda Meir – This Week’s Women in History Profile

Meir was elected Prime Minister of Israel on March 17, 1969, after serving as Minister of Labor and Foreign Minister. Born in Tsarist Russia in 1898, Meir would later recall that her earliest memories were of boarding up the windows to their home in fear of an impending pogrom. The family would move to the United States and open a small grocery in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  By the age eight, Golda had been put in charge of watching the store when her mother went to the market for supplies. Golda attended the Fourth Street Grade School (now Golda Meir School) from 1906 to 1912. A leader early on, she organized a fund raiser to pay for her classmates’ textbooks. After forming the American Young Sisters Society, she rented a hall and scheduled a public meeting for the event. She went on to graduate as valedictorian of her class. After graduating from Milwaukee State Normal School (now UW-Milwaukee) she taught in the Milwaukee public schools.

In 1921, she moved to Palestine to live and work on a Kibbutz. Meir was one of 24 signatories (including two women) of the Israeli Declaration of Independence on May 14, 1948. She later recalled, “After I signed, I cried. When I studied American history as a schoolgirl and I read about those who signed the U.S. Declaration of Independence, I couldn’t imagine these were real people doing something real. And there I was sitting down and signing a declaration of establishment.”

In 1949, Meir was elected to the Knesset and served continuously until 1974. From 1949 to 1956, she served as Minister of Labor. In 1955, she stood for the position of mayor of Tel Aviv. She lost by the two votes of the religious bloc who withheld their support on the grounds that she was a woman.

Meir came out of retirement to take office on March 17, 1969, serving as prime minister until 1974.