(b. May 3, 1898, Kiev [Ukraine]—d. Dec. 8, 1978, Jerusalem, Israel)
olda Meir was one of the founders of the State of Israel and its fourth prime minister (1969–74).
Born Goldie Mabovitch, Meir and her family immi- grated to Milwaukee, Wis., in 1906. She attended the Milwaukee Normal School (now the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee) and later became a leader in the Milwaukee Labor Zionist Party. In 1921 she and her hus- band, Morris Myerson, emigrated to Palestine and joined the Meravya kibbutz. She became the kibbutz’s repre- sentative to the Histadrut (General Federation of Labour), the secretary of that organization’s Women’s Labour Council (1928–32), and a member of its executive com- mittee (1934 until World War II).
Golda Meir helped found the State of Israel. Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
During the war, Meir emerged as a forceful spokesman for the Zionist cause in negotiating with the British man- datory authorities. In 1946, when the British arrested and detained many Jewish activists, including Moshe Sharett, head of the Political Department of the Jewish Agency, she provisionally replaced him and worked for the release of her comrades and the many Jewish war refugees who had violated British immigration regulations by settling in Palestine. Upon his release, Sharett took up diplomatic duties, and she officially took over his former position. She personally attempted to dissuade King Abdullah of Jordan from joining the invasion of Israel decided on by other Arab states.
On May 14, 1948, Meir was a signatory of Israel’s independence declaration and that year was appointed minister to Moscow. She was elected to the Knesset (Israeli parliament) in 1949 and served in that body until 1974. As minister of labour (1949–56), she carried out major programs of housing and road construction and vigorously supported the policy of unrestricted Jewish immigration to Israel. Appointed foreign minister in 1956, she Hebraized her name to Golda Meir. She promoted the Israeli policy of assistance to the new African states aimed at enhancing diplomatic support among uncommitted nations. Shortly after retiring from the Foreign Ministry in January 1966, she became secretary general of the Mapai Party and supported Prime Minister Levi Eshkol in intraparty conflicts. After Israel’s victory in the Six-Day War (June 1967) against Egypt, Jordan, and Syria, she helped merge Mapai with two dissident parties into the Israel Labour Party.
Upon Eshkol’s death on Feb. 26, 1969, Meir, the com- promisecandidate, becameprimeminister. Shemaintained the coalition government that had emerged in June 1967.