Golda Meir slept here: Update from a Denver museum dedicated to Israel’s prime minister

Born in Kyiv, Ukraine in 1898, Golda Mabovitch Meir fled with her family to Wisconsin in 1906 to escape religious persecution. Seven years later, she fled to Denver to avoid an arranged marriage.

Meir stayed with her sister, niece, and brother-in-law in a duplex at 1606-1608 Julian Street while she attended North High School. Decades later, after becoming Israel’s first female prime minister, Meir recalled discussions of socialism and politics around that Denver kitchen table in her autobiography, My life.

After Britain issued the Balfour Declaration in 1917, Meir and her husband moved to Palestine, where she rose through the political ranks. She served as Israel’s foreign minister and helped draft Israel’s declaration of independence in 1948, later becoming prime minister.

Despite Meir’s august career, the house where she had lived in Denver was in bad shape in 1982, when it was scheduled for demolition. But a community effort led by activists and politicians, including then MP Pat Schroeder, rallied to save him. It was moved to 1146 Ninth Street, alongside other historic park homes on Ninth Street in Auraria. Golda Meir was inducted into the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame in 1985; the house where she had lived received historic monument designation in 1995.

After moving, it became a museum overseen by Norman Provizer, a retired professor from Metropolitan State University in Denver. But that wasn’t Provizer’s full-time job, and the exhibits inside the house haven’t been updated since the ’90s. Last August, the Auraria Center for Higher Learning hired Lena Fishman as the first executive director of the Golda Meir House Museum.

Now Fishman is on a mission to revitalize the museum and create a place that is more representative of the historic leader who lived there. “It was a house that belonged to a Jewish family, and that part of the identity was often not revealed,” says Fishman. “This past year, we have reclaimed that identity.”

On August 1, Fishman hosted “The only woman in the room“, a symposium to discuss the future of the museum. In the speech “Behind every great woman … there is a best friend”, Meron Medzini discussed his mother’s friendship with Meir and how she arrived in Denver. Norma Joseph, a professor from Montreal, told stories of hidden women leaders of the past. And students from the “History at Work” course at the University of Colorado at Denver shared the work they had done for a class project focused on the museum. Among their ideas: improving accessibility, expanding the timeline of Meir’s life to make it more readable, dedicating a closet to victims of oppression, and creating a room on the theme of his years in Denver, where Meir said his real education began.

Click to enlarge

The kitchen of the Golda Meir House Museum.

Katrina Leibee

Fishman got the idea to organize the symposium after hearing about an upcoming book by Pnina Lahav, an Israeli-born author, titled The only woman in the room: Golda Meir and her path to power. The film Goldawhich focuses on Meir during the Yom Kippur War, is also slated for release this year.

“When all of this started to come together, we realized that as we worked on building a new exhibit, we wanted [it] be based on the new cutting-edge hardware that’s coming out right now,” says Fishman.

Lahav was one of the speakers at the symposium, as was Andrea Malcomb, director of the Molly Brown House Museum, who spoke about creating spaces that reveal women’s stories. Stereotypical descriptions call the Brown House museum’s focus “unsinkable Molly Brown”, but there was so much more to her life. “In our museum, we activate our collections, exhibitions and programs so that visitors can see beyond the myths of the past and discover that Margaret was a woman ahead of her time,” says Malcomb. “For us, when visitors see a copy of the magazine The suffragettes resting on a desk or a “Votes for Women” belt resting on Margaret’s daybed, this simple object provides the opening to share how here in the West women first won the right to vote .”

Malcomb certainly learned a lot about Golda Meir during her day at the museum. “I had no idea she had accomplished all of these things in her lifetime,” she says.

It’s an answer that Fishman looks forward to hearing from many other people. She continues to work on plans for the Golda Meir Museum update and will host the Golda Gala fundraiser in November when the film is released. In the meantime, although the museum does not have regular hours, Fishman will be running tours; contact her at [email protected]

About Margaret L. Portillo

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