GOLDA MEIR: POOR GIRL WHO ROSE FROM SCORNED CHILDHOOD TO BECOME PRIME MINISTER
In 1906, a family of three children and the mother arrived Milwaukee, USA, from present day Ukraine in search of better life for the family.
One of the children who arrived to join their labourer father who had relocated there a year earlier was a little girl Golda Mabovitch, aged eight.
Her arrival was unique in so many ways. One of them was that her background was that of a child who has been familiar with poverty. The change in location and society from that of a poor living to a place of opulence made the low economy class of the family Golda was born into so glaring.
So when Golda enrolled in school, she had some very high hurdles to scale. Such included the hitch of poverty that made her always the shabbiest dressed child in the class. Her shoes and dresses were always the type others had dropped from their homes. To make matters worse, she had no knowledge of the language her new society spoke.
With her background in Ukraine, then in Russia, English was a language of the spirits that was mere blabbing. Found in such a niche, her ways were just unimaginable as her agonies were unbelievable among her mates in school.
Little Golda was always at the butt of castigations and odd jokes from her mates according to a book by Robert Schuller Jr, Getting Through the Going Through Stage. She endured the spite and scorn of her classmates as her words were very few and attracted derision when spoken because her phrases came muddled up as her attire came untangled.
In such a situation Golda carried on with life with tears always running down her cheeks occasioned by the torrents of taunts and scolds from her mates in school. Her biography in the Wikipedia noted that at the age of eight, Golda had started working as part time shop keeper for the mother - a shop from which their family supplies were made possible.
But surprisingly, by the time Golda graduated from this school, she had so overcome her besetting burdens that she emerged a valedictorian for coming out the best child in school.
Golda attended the Fourth Street Grade School from 1906 to 1912. It was in this school that she passed through the taunts and torments of her mates for being a misfit at the initial stage.
'A leader early on, she organized a fundraiser 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 valedictorian of her class, despite not knowing English at the beginning of her schooling.
At 14, she went to North Division High School and worked part-time. Her mother wanted her to leave school and marry, but she rebelled. She bought a train ticket to Denver, Colorado, and went to live with her married sister, Sheyna.
The people she lived with here held intellectual evenings at their home, where Meir was exposed to debates on Zionism, literature, women's suffrage, trade unionism, and more. In her autobiography, she wrote: 'To the extent that my own future convictions were shaped and given form… those talk-filled nights in Denver played a considerable role. In Denver, she also met Morris Meyerson, a sign painter, whom she later married at the age of 19', Wikipedia wrote.
Because Golda refused to be put down by prevailing circumstances, she had overcome her besetting problems just few years after her arrival an outcast status to be a helper to others in 1914 when she set up fundraiser to assist other less privileged children. To her, life was not just about picking up the gauntlet to overcome barriers but to also help others immediately one crosses over to also cross over.
Sometime in the early 1970s the Prime Minister of Israel paid state visit to USA in the days of Richard Nixon. The PM was a woman. During her visit, she asked to visit Milwaukee and to be received in a school in the city. That school was Fourth Street Grade School. That was the school Golda Mabovitch attended between 1906 and sometime in about 1913. That was the same place Golda was scorned and ridiculed as a misfit.
Now Golda Meir is visiting as Prime Minister. Many, even among her contemporaries in the school never knew again that it was the same odd child that has turned Golda Meir and Israeli Prime Minister and the first woman to be the head of a sovereign state. By the time she walked into the school premises, she told her story of many years ago. The tale left listeners dumb-founded.
As she walked out of the school on red carpet, the name of the school took a metamorphosis. It was later to be known as Golda Meir School, Milwaukee.
Meir was elected Prime Minister of Israel on March 17, 1969, after serving as Minister of Labour and Foreign Minister. As Israel's first and the world's third woman to hold such an office, she was described as the 'Iron Lady' of Israeli politics years before the epithet became associated with British prime minister Margaret Thatcher. Former prime minister David Ben-Gurion used to call Meir 'the best man in the government'; she was often portrayed as the 'strong-willed, straight-talking, grey-bunned grandmother of the Jewish people.'
In 1948, she became Israel's first ambassador to the Soviet Union. That position lasted seven months, and she returned to Israel in 1949 to become Minister of Labour. In 1956, she became Foreign Minister, and served in this capacity until her retirement in 1965. She changed her name from 'Meyerson' to 'Meir' in 1956, due to the advice given to her by David Ben Gurion saying that she should have a Hebrew name.
On February26, 1969, Prime Minister Levi Eshkol died of a heart attack, at which time many members of the Knesset asked Meir to return to politics. She became prime minister of Israel with the Labour Party's support. She spent much of her time developing support for Israel by meeting with western leaders. In 1974, the labour coalition broke up and Meir left office. She died four years later.
Meir was one of twenty-four signatories (two of them 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 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.'
Carrying the first Israeli-issued passport, Meir was appointed Israel's ambassador to the Soviet Union. During her brief stint there, which ended in 1949, she attended high holiday services at the synagogue in Moscow, where she was mobbed by thousands of Russian Jews chanting her name. The Israeli 10,000 shekel banknote issued in November 1984 bore a portrait of Meir on one side and the image of the crowd that turned out to cheer her in Moscow on the other.
Poor Golda, the girl born into hardship, grown in penury, battled a bleak future and turned great in spite of the odds etched into her life a wonderful turning point that lifted her into many firsts and grand attainments.
Golda, like an aircraft taking off, defied gravity and broke into the skies of greatness and made history and as well wrote volumes of inspirations through her life for the lower persons that growth and lift is possible not minding the way one started.