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Snapshots in History: May 3: Remembering John McCrae, Golda Meir, and Margaret Thatcher

May 3, 2013 | John P. | Comments (0)

On May 3, take a moment to ponder three individuals from the recent and not-so-recent past: John McCrae, Golda Meir, and Margaret Thatcher. Canadians will recognize the name John McCrae but might still ask: Why should we remember John McCrae here in this way? Lieutenant-Colonel John Alexander McCrae (Born: November 30, 1872; Died: January 28, 1918) was a Canadian medical doctor serving with the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) in France during the First World War. He was also an artist, an author and a poet, the latter for which he is arguably best remembered today. For it was on May 3, 1915 that McCrae penned his famous war memorial poem “In Flanders Fields” in the back of an ambulance after presiding over the funeral of his friend and fellow soldier Alexis Helmer who died in the Second Battle of Ypres. Consider the following titles for borrowing from Toronto Public Library collections:


A crown of life the world of John McCrae

A crown of life: the world of John McCrae / Dianne Graves, 1997. Book. Non-Fiction.

McCrae served as a medical officer with the artillery in both the Second Boer War and the First World War until his death in early 1918. His now-famous poem “In Flanders Fields” spawned the poppy campaigns to raise money for disabled, former military personnel. Graves also weaved into her account McCrae’s encounters with famous personalities such as Leo Amery, Rudyard Kipling, Sir Alexander Fleming, and Canadian humorist and political economist Stephen Leacock. 


Canadian children’s author Linda Granfield has popularized the memory of John McCrae and “In Flanders Fields” with books such as the following:

Remembering John McCrae soldier doctor poet

Remembering John McCrae: soldier, doctor, poet / Linda Granfield, 2009. Book. Children’s Non-Fiction.


In Flanders fields the story of the poem by John McCrae

In Flanders fields: the story of the poem by John McCrae / Linda Granfield, 2002. Book. Children’s Non-Fiction.

Children's Literature Round tables of Canada Information Book Award winner

Canadian Library Association Honour Book


 Now let us take a look at two strong female political leaders who have both earned the nickname “Iron Lady” from the past: socialist Golda Meir and conservative Margaret Thatcher. Golda (Mabovich) Meir (Born: May 3, 1898; Died: December 8, 1978) worked with the Histradut trade union movement in the 1920s and 1930s, served as Israel’s ambassador to the USSR in 1948-1949, served as Minister of Labour from 1949-1956 and Minister of Foreign Affairs from 1956-1966 in David Ben-Gurion’s Labour (Mapai) Party government. After being diagnosed with lymphoma, she retreated from active politics but returned to become Secretary-General of Mapai. She served as Prime Minister of Israel from March 7, 1969 to April 11, 1974. In fact, Meir began the third female Prime Minister in the world after Sirimavo Bandaranaike of Sri Lanka and Indira Gandhi of India. Golda Meir died of lymphatic cancer at 80 years of age in 1978.

Margaret Hilda (Roberts) Thatcher (Born: October 13, 1925; Died: April 8, 2013) was the longest-serving (and only female) Prime Minister of the United Kingdom in the 20th century from May 4, 1979 to November 28, 1990. Thatcher, as leader of the Conservative Party, won the British general election on May 3, 1979 and assumed office as Prime Minister the next day. Thatcher graduated with degrees in chemistry and law. As a Member of Parliament (1959-1970), she worked her way from backbench to front bench, was an active member of Conservative Friends of Israel, argued for the right of tenants to own their local council houses, and criticized the “high-tax” policies of the then-Labour Party government in the mid-to-late 1960s. She served as Secretary of State for Education and Science under Edward Heath’s Conservative government (1970-1974), and then successfully challenged Heath for the Conservative Party leadership in 1975 following the Conservatives’ defeat in two general elections in 1974. As Prime Minister, her government followed monetarist policies that emphasized low inflation and tight money supply. She sought to curb trade union power and strongly challenged the National Union of Miners and their year-long strike which ended in their defeat. Thatcher was a big supporter of smaller government and privatization. On foreign policy, she instilled pride in British citizens with a British victory over Argentina in the Falklands War in 1982. She was a cold warrior along with her friend and ally, American President Ronald Reagan, but sought out a dialogue with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev whom she saw as a reformer. Margaret Thatcher was forced to step down as Conservative Party leader and British Prime Minister after having faced a cabinet and party revolt over her reticence for Britain to join the European Exchange Rate Mechanism. Baroness Thatcher suffered several strokes in 2002 that forced her retirement from public speaking and she succumbed to another stroke in April 2013 at 87 years of age.

Consider these titles for borrowing from Toronto Public Library collections:



Golda / Elinor Burkett, 2008. Book. Non-Fiction.

The author gives the reader a balanced and readable biography of much admired former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir, who was born in Russia and emigrated to America before ending up as a Zionist in Palestine. Israel's near-destruction in the 1973 Yom Kippur war led to her resignation as Prime Minister. The biography also touches upon the subject's less than successful familial relations as her husband and children took second place to political aspirations.

(This title review also appeared in: Biographies: The Famous, Infamous and Not-so-Famous .)


Women in power the personalities and leadership styles of Indira Gandhi Golda Meir and Margaret Thatcher

Women in power: the personalities and leadership styles of Indira Gandhi, Golda Meir, and Margaret Thatcher / Blema S. Steinberg, 2008. Book. Non-Fiction.

The author used psychological leadership studies and conventional personality assessments to frame the study of leadership using the three examples of former Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir, and former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

(This title review also appeared in: Salute to International Women’s Day! Selected Biographies and Memoirs of Women .)


 The path to power

The path to power / Margaret Thatcher, 1995. Book. Non-Fiction.

The second part of Margaret Thatcher’s memoirs covered the earlier time of her life up to becoming Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. She discussed her upbringing in a conservative and religious household, her post-secondary education in chemistry and the law, and focussed on her pre-prime ministerial political career.

For additional copies, click here. Also available in eBook format.


The Downing Street Years

The Downing Street years / Margaret Thatcher, 1993. Book. Non-Fiction.

Thatcher attributed three Conservative Party victories at the polls under her leadership to sticking to political principles. Those who share Margaret Thatcher’s viewpoints on trade unions, the Cold War, the Falklands War, and so on will find her determination reassuring.

Also available in eBook format.


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