On this day: Golda Meir voted in

March 7 1969: Israel’s first female leader

By Jennifer Lipman, March 7, 2011

After Levi Eshkol’s sudden death from a heart attack, the party chose the then 70-yearold to replace him. In doing so, the woman born Golda Mabovitch in Kiev became the first female leader in Israel and a pioneering figure for the world.

She said on being chosen: "I have faced difficult problems in the past but nothing like the one I'm faced with now in leading the country."

One of just two women to sign Israel’s declaration of independence, she had served many roles in Israel’s birth and early years, from Zionist activist to negotiatior with the British mandate authorities and later foreign minister.

She briefly served as Israel’s ambassador to the Soviet Union (before the USSR cut ties with Israel) and in 1949 was elected to the Knesset.

As Israel’s fourth Prime Minister – she was elected by the public the following October and served until April 1974 – Meir oversaw serious challenges, from the War of Attrition to the Yom Kippur War and the massacre of Israeli Olympic athletes in Munich in 1972.

She died in 1978, four years after resigning because of what she felt was “the will of the people”.

What the JC said: Some of the most determined Rafi fighters of the past [the group backing Moshe Dayan] voted in favour of Mrs Meir. They explained themselves variously by the need to maintain stable government as this critical time; by Mrs Meir’s fitness for the job of national leadership, and by the failure of their own ranks to produce a contender for the office.

See more from the JC archives here.

Last updated: 9:46am, March 7 2011