Golda (Mabovitch) Meyerson was born in Kiev, Ukraine in 1898. Golda emigrated to the US in 1906 when her father sent for his family to join him in Milwaukee. While attending Fourth Street School (now the Golda Meir School), Golda and a friend formed the American Young Sisters Society to raise money to buy textbooks for underprivileged students, an early sign of Golda's philanthropic heart and socialist beliefs. In 1917, she started working at the Yiddish-speaking Folks Schule, which is where she came more closely into contact with the ideals of Labor Zionism - teaching students and organizing protest marches. She soon married Morris Meyerson, a committed Labor Zionist and dedicated socialist. Together, they left the US and joined a kibbutz in Palestine in 1921, where Golda became more involved with the Zionist movement.
At the end of World War II, she took part in the negotiations with the British that resulted in the creation of the state of Israel and in 1948, she traveled back to America to raise funds to support the founding of the Jewish state in Israel. Golda was enormously successful, raising upwards of $50 million - a huge sum in that time period. She gave a talk in Chicago which has been referred to as “the speech that made possible a Jewish state”. In 1949 to become Israel's Minister of Labor, and in 1956, she became Foreign Minister, during which time she greatly expanded Israel’s contact with Third World countries in Africa, peoples with whom she felt Jews shared “the memory of centuries of suffering.” Throughout her life, she is particularly proud of her efforts in building these relationships and providing highly effective assistance programs.
In 1956, Golda Meir changed her name from “Meyerson” to “Meir” - a hebrew word meaning to illuminate or to burn brightly. In 1969, Golda became prime minister of Israel with the Labor Party’s support, just as she was turning 71 years old. She was only the fourth person to hold the position, and her time in the position was marked by enormously high approval ratings. While prime minister, she spent much of her time developing support for Israel by meeting with western leaders. In 1971, she became only the second woman from outside the U.S. to be at the top of the list of the most admired woman in America, compiled by the Gallup poll. She repeats this achievement in 1973 and 1974. In 1974, the labor coalition broke up and Meir left office. She died four years later.
About this piece
As I was formulating the concept for the 11 piece installation, "Portrait of Milwaukee Progress," the first person I thought of was Golda Meir. Hers was a name I recognized from my youth as she was in the news quite a bit during those years. Her name shows up in many places in Milwaukee - schools and libraries and memorials - and she's one of this towns most consequential women. Her lifelong work was at it's core about human rights and working to achieve peace. Golda had a deep conviction about the need for world peace. She told a friend in 1948, “The thing that mattered most in my life was that if a thing has to be done, you don’t waste time with theories and debates. You just do it.” Golda was an easy choice. In the image I focused in the foreground of a portrait of her taken during an interview toward the end of her life, and in the background a photo of her working with young people in Israel. I also dropped a portrait of Golda as a young girl into the crowd.
PORTRAIT OF MILWAUKEE PROGRESS
The following 11 pieces comprise the installation, "Portrait of Milwaukee Progress", commissioned by Milwaukee Area Technical College.