Ladies of Liberty

By Cokie Roberts


William Morrow / 481 pages / $26.95



By Elinor Burkett

HarperCollins / 480 pages / $27.95

Golda Meir was a Russian-born American citizen who became prime minister of Israel in 1969 at age 70. She has been the subject of numerous biographies. My Life, her ghost-written autobiography, became a best-seller even though she disdained it, claiming she hated indiscretion. Now with Golda, Elinor Burkett looks at this larger-than-life woman as a study in contrasts. She spent her early years in Kiev, Russia, during the pogroms, and in 1906 at age 8, she emigrated to Milwaukee, where she became enamored with socialist and Zionist ideals. In 1921, she and Morris Myerson, her husband, moved to Palestine to live on a kibbutz. For health reasons, the couple moved to Jerusalem and later Tel Aviv; she had two children and was a dedicated member of the Zionist movement. As her political responsibilities increased, her marriage disintegrated. But she never divorced her husband, believing that her success was built on his sacrifice. A chain-smoking, dowdy figure with a protruding nose, austere bun and thick body, Meir worked tirelessly for peace - from disguising herself as an Arab woman to addressing members of the United Nations to using military force. Meir died in 1978, an enigma who insisted on keeping her personal life private. Published to coincide with the 30th anniversary of her death, Burkett's biography, while offering an engaging portrait of Meir, shows history with a female, though not traditionally feminine, face.

Diane Scharper teaches English at Towson University. She is co-editor of "Reading Lips And Other Ways to Overcome a Disability," an anthology, to be published by Apprentice House.