The Council's Women of Strength: The Jewish Female Heritage Series would be incomplete without focusing on the Milwaukee schoolteacher who became the leader of Israel. Golda Meir became a symbol of
The Council’s Women of Strength: The Jewish Female Heritage Series would be incomplete without focusing on the Milwaukee schoolteacher who became the leader of Israel.
Golda Meir became a symbol of the power of women and their ability to run nations and deal with international crises and challenges.
To present an authoritative examination of this legendary figure’s life, the Council turns to author and feminist Francine Klagsbrun whose latest (of many!) book is Lioness: Golda Meir and The Nation of Israel. It is described as the “definitive biography” of “the iron-willed leader, chain-smoking political operative, and tea-and-cake-serving grandmother who became the fourth prime minister of Israel and one of the most notable women of our time.”
Klagsbrun’s account of this remarkable life demonstrates the subject’s confidence in “a man’s world” and explores the circumstances when “Golda negotiated arms agreements with Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger, agonized over the mixed signals being sent by newly installed Egyptian president Anwar Sadat, and had dozens of clandestine meetings with Jordan’s King Hussein in the unsuccessful pursuit of a land-for-peace agreement with Israel’s neighbors.” The biography pulls no punches, explaining how “her time in office ended in tragedy, when Israel was caught off guard by Egypt and Syria’s surprise attack on Yom Kippur in 1973.”
Meir was born in 1898 in Kiev and, in the early 1900s she and her family left a Russia ruled by tsars for safety in the United States. Young Golda entered the American education system and after study at what is now the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, she became a public school teacher. The activist/leader traveled a path of politics, government and personal determination – it led her to Israel where, in 1948 as Defense Minister, she signed the Israeli Declaration of Independence that created the State of Israel. In 1969, she was elected Prime Minister of Israel, the first woman to hold the job.
Both the young and the mature Golda have inspired books, plays and motion pictures. She also has inspired young women to challenge society for equal opportunity and respect.
It is fitting, then, that the Council’s speaker is both a skilled writer and biographer and an energetic pursuer of human rights. Klagsbrun the writer is also Klagsbrun the scholar/activist. She earned a magna cum laude B.A. in Art at Brooklyn College, where she was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. She holds a Bachelor of Hebrew Literature from the Jewish Theological Seminary and an M.A. in art history from the Institute of Fine Arts.
An early writer for Ms. Magazine, she was the editor of the early 1970s best-selling Free To Be … You and Me, produced by actress Marlo Thomas and the Ms. Foundation. She writes a monthly column for The Jewish Week and her work appears in many other publications. You can read an example of her work in this blog article titled “An Act of Kindness Remembered.”
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