When Golda Meir, Israel's First and Only Female PM, Also Took a Fall

David Ben-Gurion famously described Meir as 'the only man' in his cabinet, a comment she said was no compliment 'because men can't have children.'

Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Prime Minister Golda Meir and President Richard Nixon in 1970.
Prime Minister Golda Meir and President Richard Nixon in 1970. Credit: AP

Despite the media-inspired doom and gloom over Hillary Clinton's stumble at the 9/11 memorial ceremony in New York on Sunday, passing out is not necessarily an obstacle to a woman becoming a national leader.

The historical record shows that Golda Meir, Israel's first and only woman prime minister, passed out at least twice before taking office. Both episodes took place while Meir was Israeli Foreign Ministry diplomat from 1956 to 1966.

On December 1964, the New York Times reported that Meir had collapsed during a "sevenhourlong meeting of the Central Committee of the Mapai party" - which many would regard as a perfect excuse for collapse.

The second incident occurred on the border of Zambia and Rhodesia in southern Africa. Meir was on a bus with other diplomats in the area of Victoria Falls when Rhodesian soldiers ordered them to alight, "whites and blacks separately" for the passports of the blacks to be checked. Rhodesia was white-ruled until it became Zimbabwe under a black government in 1979.

According to a report in the Israeli press, Meir was so angered by the incident that she "collapsed from overwrought emotions."

In addition to collapsing, Meir was injured when a bomb was thrown into the Knesset chamber in 1957 (by a Syrian Jew who was described as "mentally unbalanced") and diagnosed with lymphoma in the early Sixties, leading to her resignation from the Foreign Ministry in January 1966.

Despite all, Golda Meir was elected Prime Minister of Israel in February 1969, at the age of 69. She served for five years before resigning in 1974 in the wake of the Yom Kippur War and died of lymphoma in 1978.

David Ben-Gurion famously described Meir as "the only man" in his cabinet. To which Meir responded that she didn't regard it as a compliment "because men can't have children."

Former foreign minister Tzipi Livni tweeted on Monday that the "#Clintonhealth hysteria would not be the same if she were a man." Golda Meir would no doubt agree.