Queen Hillary and Prime Minister Golda

Golda Meir is unique in the history of women rulers, but no one realizes that, because she was prime minister of Israel.

Prof. George Jochnowitz

OpEds גולדה מאיר בביקור בסיני במהלך מלחמת יו"כ
גולדה מאיר בביקור בסיני במהלך מלחמת יו"כ

Queens have existed throughout history. They are women who rule because they are married to or descended from other rulers. If Hillary Clinton is elected President of the United States, she will be the first woman to hold that po‎sition. She is experienced and knowledgeable, but the reason she became famous is that she is married to a previous president.

To become president, she will have to be elected herself. Voters will decide whether her capabilities and qualifications are worthy of the position; however, her fame is already there because she was once First Lady. Being a first lady is analogous to being a queen.

Prime ministers are heads of government who are chosen by the parliaments of their countries. The first woman head of state in history was Sirimavo Bandaranaike of Ceylon. She took office on July 21, 1960, a few months after her husband Prime Minister Solomon Bandaranaike, was assassinated in 1959. Sirimavo Bandaranaike deserves recognition as the first female prime minister of an independent state. Since she was a first lady before that, she was also the heiress of a previous ruler, as queens are.

The second woman head of government of an independent country was Indira Gandhi of India. Gandhi was her married name; her maiden name was Nehru. She was the only daughter of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. She took office on January 14, 1980. She never was a first lady, but as the daughter of Prime Minister Nehru, she inherited his connections to the government, making her analogous to being a princess.

The third woman head of government of an independent country was Golda Meir of Israel. She took office on March 17, 1969. She was neither the daughter nor the wife or widow of anyone in office at all. She was neither a queen nor a princess. Her election was a first-time-in-history event. She should be famous for this, especially among feminists. However, nobody knows about her unique status. Nobody thinks of Israel as the country that was the first to be ruled by a woman who was not related to a previous ruler.

Israel is also a country that has had women in its armed forces for its entire history. Even before the state of Israel was created, there were women who served in the Hagana, meaning “defense,” which was the precursor of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), as the Israeli army is known. Both men and women are drafted into the IDF. Just as nobody knows about the unique status of Golda Meir, nobody knows that Israel is the only country that has always had women in its army.

In some countries, the head of government is the prime minister; in others, it is the president. Iceland and the United States are countries that elect presidents. Iceland elected a woman, Vigdis Finnbogadottir, to be its president in 1980. Was Iceland the first? That depends on whether you believe that Tannu Tuva was a country. Tannu Tuva became independent in 1921 but was incorporated into the Soviet Union in 1944. It was located between Mongolia and the USSR. Its two neighbors were the only countries that ever recognized it as a separate nation. Tannu Tuva elected Khertek Anchima-Toka is president in June of 1944. However, in November of that year, Tannu Tuva lost its independence. It is now part of Russia.

If Hillary Clinton is elected President of the United States, she will be the president of a country that everybody thinks about, unlike Iceland, which does not get into the news, or Tannu Tuva, whose very existence was basically unknown. It will be an important step for women if the USA has a woman president, but Hillary Clinton, like Sirimavo Bandaranaike and Indira Gandhi, is a woman who first became famous because of her husband or father.

As for prime ministers, there have been several women in that po‎sition who became famous through their own careers, including Margaret Thatcher of the United Kingdom and Angela Merkel of Germany. However, Golda Meir was the first.

Feminists should love and admire Israel.