Colorado History

A Future Prime Minister Slept Here: Updating the Golda Meir House Museum

Golda Meir House Museum in the Ninth Street Historic Park.
Golda Meir House Museum in the Ninth Street Historic Park. Katrina Leibee
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 ran away 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 she became Israel's first female prime minister, Meir recalled the 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 worked her way up the political ranks. She served as the foreign minister of Israel and helped write the Israeli Declaration of Independence in 1948, then went on to become prime minister.

Despite Meir's august career, the house where she'd lived in Denver was in a state of disrepair by1982, when it was scheduled for demolition. But a community effort led by activists and politicians, including then-Congresswoman Pat Schroeder, rallied to save it. It was moved to 1146 Ninth Street, alongside other homes in the Ninth Street Historic Park in Auraria. Golda Meir was inducted into the Colorado Women's Hall of Fame in 1985; the house where she'd lived received historic landmark designation in 1995.

After its relocation, it became a museum overseen by Norman Provizer, a retired professor at Metropolitan State University of Denver. But that was not Provizer's full-time job, and the exhibits inside the house have not been updated since the ’90s. Last August, the Auraria Higher Education Center hired Lena Fishman as the Golda Meir House Museum's first executive director.

Now Fishman is on a mission to revitalize the museum and create a place 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 told," says Fishman. "This past year, we’ve been reclaiming that identity."

On August 1, Fishman hosted "The Only Woman in the Room," a symposium to discuss the future of the museum. In the talk "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, related stories of hidden female leaders of the past. And students from the University of Colorado Denver's "History at Work" course shared work they had done for a class project focusing 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 themed around her years in Denver, where Meir said her real education began.
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The kitchen in the Golda Meir House Museum.
Katrina Leibee
Fishman was inspired to put on 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 movie Golda, which focuses on Meir during the Yom Kippur War, is also slated to come out this year.

"When all of that started coming together, we realized that as we work to build a new exhibit, we wanted [it] to be based on the cutting-edge new material that is coming out right now," Fishman says.

Lahav was one of the speakers at the symposium, as was Andrea Malcomb, director of the Molly Brown House Museum, who talked about creating spaces that reveal women's stories. Stereotypical descriptions label the focus of Brown House museum as the "unsinkable Molly Brown," but there was much more to her life. "At our museum, we activate our collections, exhibits and programs so that visitors can see beyond the myths of the past and discover that Margaret was a woman ahead of her time," Malcomb says. "For us, when visitors see a copy of the magazine The Suffragists laying on a desk or a 'Votes for Women' sash laying across Margaret's day bed, that simple object provides the opening to share how out here in the West women first gained voter enfranchisement."

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

That's a response that Fishman is looking forward to hearing from many more people. She's continuing to work on plans for the Golda Meir Museum's update, and will host the Golda Gala fundraiser in November, when the movie comes out. In the meantime, although the museum does not keep regular hours, Fishman will arrange tours; contact her at [email protected]
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Katrina Leibee, a recent graduate of Colorado State University, is an editorial fellow at Westword, covering politics, business and culture.
Contact: Katrina Leibee